Ryman residents and team members have shared memories and stories of what Queen Elizabeth II meant to them, following the historic announcement of her passing last week.
Many admitted to shedding a few tears and feeling shocked upon hearing the news, with some expressing disbelief that the Queen’s constant steady presence throughout most of their lives had ended.
News and views sessions with care centre residents have been preoccupied with the topic ever since, while village teams have been busy organising special morning and afternoon teas and happy hours, as well as opportunities to gather and watch the funeral proceedings.
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For 96-year-old Jean Bell, being three months older than the Queen, it really hit hard.
“It’s come as a real shock and with such suddenness that she has passed away,” said the Possum Bourne resident. “I had a few tears when I saw the news because she’s always been there and has been lovely, and I’ve always admired what she’s wearing.
“I always imagined she’d be there to send a card for my 100th birthday.”
Jean, who often gets called ‘Queenie’ in the village, has an impressive collection of royal commemorative china, books and cuttings and would always take the family out to wave at the Queen as she passed through her hometown of Pokeno on her New Zealand tours.
Jean said she couldn’t help but compare the various parallels in their lives over the decades.
Jean with the card she received from the Queen for her 60th wedding anniversary.
“I was always interested in her life. When she took the throne I used to think about her sitting there all that time and how different my life was to hers.”
While there were obvious differences to their lives, there were also many similarities. Jean and her late husband John also had a happy marriage, raised four children and believed in giving back to their community.
Jean received two medals for her service to the Plunket Society and was always the first person to volunteer for netball, rowing and PTA activities, then later she took on various committee roles at the bowls club during 40 years of playing.
While the Queen had eight grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren, Jean raced ahead of her with 13 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren!
Jean added: “It sounds a little bit uncanny in a way, but I have loved her as though she was my sister.”
She was planning to lay some flowers next to the village’s temporary flag, which had been lowered to half mast as a mark of respect.
The temporary flag was lowered to half mast at Possum Bourne Village.
For retired Anglican minister Geoff Hickman, from Keith Park Retirement Village, the Queen’s death stirred up memories of when he helped to host church services during her New Zealand tours.
“In 1995 she came to Auckland Cathedral to a thanksgiving service for the opening of the new nave, and in 2002, she came to our church in Taupō.
“She was there with the Duke and a big crowd came and people from the international media too. There was very tight security because of 9/11.
“It was the last church service she attended in New Zealand.”
Keith Park's Geoff Hickman (above) tells 1News about the times he met the Queen in 1995 and then (below) 2002.
Geoff said his family had always been fans of the royals and he had strong memories of her arrival in Auckland city on 23rd December 1951 when he was just 11-years-old.
“My mother took me and my younger brother to see the Queen come off the ship even though it was raining.”
On hearing the news of her death, he said: “I felt a certain sadness, but I also feel that there’s something there to celebrate.”
Four residents from Edmund Hillary Retirement Village – Val Murray, Noeline Farley, Diane Wilson and Joan Swift – have all been awarded Queen’s Service Medals for their voluntary work and, along with Geoff, shared their thoughts about the monarch with TV1 news.
Val always turned out for the Queen’s visits to New Zealand and took the news hard.
“I broke down completely once I knew. It was really a sad moment for me.”
Val taught ballet for 60 years with studios across Auckland and was awarded her medal for services to dance.
QSM recipients Diane Wilson, Joan Swift, Val Murray and Noeline Farley, of Edmund Hillary Retirement Village, share their thoughts about the Queen with 1News reporter Kim Baker Wilson and camera operator Jan Polak.
Noeline’s was awarded for her fundraising efforts for hospice, while Joan’s work for the Cancer Society and Look Good, Feel Better charity earned her recognition. Diane’s medal was for services to genealogy and the community.
“I think it’s affected most people because we have been through all those years she’s been alive, or most of us have been,” said Noeline.
Diane said the incredible reaction to her death reflected the sheer volume of people’s lives she had touched: “She had a wide range of interests and of her patronage and things she was involved in.”
Joan had also followed the Queen’s life closely, recalling the first time she saw her during a summer holiday in Ōrewa.
She observed that while future recipients would be awarded King’s Service Medals, one thing would remain the same.
“We will still have a Queen’s Service Medal and of that I am very, very proud.”
Ryman residents were not the only ones to share proud memories of the Queen.
Linda Jones Project Manager Gary Cox dug out an old newspaper cutting from 1977 which captured him aged just six presenting the monarch with a flag when she visited Whāngarei.
“Our family had just come back from the beach and my mum gave me a flag and dared me to give it to her. So I did!” he laughed.
A young Gary Cox presenting the Queen with a flag in 1974.