Pam Hurford knows more than most the power of a positive word.
The Linda Jones resident has spent over 50 years writing letters to the editor of her local free paper, the Hamilton Press, ranging from constructive suggestions to simple praise.
“In the early days I wrote a lot about traffic but I would use a nom de plume because my dad was in traffic,” says Pam.
“He was the first traffic officer in New Zealand to go into schools to teach children about road safety.”
On one occasion she signed a traffic-related letter with P Hurford, and her husband Peter received a grumble from the then mayor who thought he had written it!
“I love letter writing. I would read something in the paper and I would agree or not. But none of my letters were derogatory. Many of them were to say thank you.”
Indeed, a good number of Pam’s letters were written in praise of the local arts scene.
“They would be complimentary, about the pipe bands or (repertory theatre society) Hamilton Playbox, because some of these actors are so good at what they do so I would praise them.”
She would also send in many recipes, usually with a cost-saving angle, such as a pie made from cheaper meat cuts such as lamb flap and kidney.
As a very active member of the Chartwell Mall Walkers group when she was in her 60s, Pam and her fellow walkers pooled all their best recipes and produced a cookbook to sell for $10 to raise money for the Head Injury Society.
What’s even more remarkable is the fact that Pam has kept cuttings of every single published letter, filling up notebooks and recording the date of each letter’s publication.
Pam said it has always been a good talking point, so much so she did a talk at Probus about her letter-writing habit.
Some of the many letters Pam wrote to the local newspaper over five decades.
In 2004, the Hamilton Press even did a story about her habit of writing to them with the headline ‘No cramp for this prolific letter writer’.
Having started in 1964, Pam wound down her letter-writing in 2016, 52 years after she started.
“I don’t know why I stopped, I think it was because I got to the end of the notebook and I didn’t want to start another one!”
Instead, her outlet became talkback radio, with Pam’s calls becoming so regular radio host Kerre Woodham knew it would be ‘Pam from Hamilton’ as soon as her number came up!
“The amount of people who’d say ‘I heard you on the radio’,” she laughs.
And while Pam has never been short of a useful suggestion or two for others, she was always the first person to put her money where her mouth was and if something needed doing, she’d go and do it.
She spent many years as part of the Sunshine Club, a group set up to visit patients in Waikato Hospital, and was a St John volunteer for a long time too, spending hours on freezing sports fields in case the rugby or hockey players needed a trip in an ambulance.
When her three children were younger she helped to run Cubs along with husband Peter, and was a Girls Life Brigade cadet leader and Sunday school teacher.
She volunteered on numerous committees including the school PTAs, Scottish country dancing, and being an active member of St Aidan’s Church, she spent a good deal of time involved in church-related community work.
“I talk fast and I walk fast and I can be quite bossy, but you need that sort of person to run things,” laughs Pam.
“I’m a people person, I’m very social and I like people.”
Life took a turn in May 2021 when Pam’s eyesight suddenly deteriorated and she moved from an independent apartment to a serviced apartment at Linda Jones.
She looks forward to visits from her three children, her seven grandchildren and her six great grandsons.
“I love to see them,” she says. “I do a lot of phoning, that’s very important to me, but I have got to call people who are saved in my phone!”
While her eyesight means reading and watching tv are more difficult now, there are a few devices she can use to help and she is thankful for the support she gets from living in the village.
“I have a pretty good life, I am grateful. JC (Senior Caregiver at the village) helps me with my ipad. I’m very content here,” she smiles.