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Ryman village named after New Zealand romance queen Essie Summers

Earthquake-damaged village gets a $20 million rebuild and a new romantic name

A Christchurch retirement village has been given a fresh look and a new name after a $20 million rebuild.

Essie Summers Retirement Village on Colombo St sustained a large amount of damage in the 2011 earthquakes but managed to stay open throughout.

A $20 million rebuild was begun last year and is almost complete, resulting in a village almost twice as big with additional care amenities for residents, including dementia care.

To celebrate its reopening and complete refurbishment Ryman Healthcare residents, staff and the community were asked to suggest a new name.

Among the suggestions was Essie Summers, one of New Zealand’s most successful romance writers.

Essie Summers was born in Christchurch in 1912 and wanted to be a writer from a young age. She sold her first romance novel to Mills and Boon in 1956, and went on to publish 57 novels with 19 million copies sold in more than 100 countries.

She was married to the Reverend William Flett, and the couple had two children, Bill and Elizabeth.

Essie died in 1998 after a long and successful career.

Ryman Healthcare managing director Simon Challies said the name Essie Summers was a stand-out.

“We’re delighted to be bringing romance to Beckenham,’’ he said.

“Essie loved Christchurch and made a huge success out of her writing career. We’re very grateful to her family for lending us her name.’’

“The village’s residents and staff went through a tough time during the earthquakes and we’re pleased to have repaid their patience by creating what is almost a brand-new village.’’

Essie’s son Bill Flett lives in Napier and daughter Elizabeth lives in Milton. They flew to Christchurch to celebrate the naming with residents at the village.

“We’re thrilled, as are our extended families, that Essie's name is being honoured and perpetuated in this way, in the city she so loved,’’ they said.

“Being very modest and down to earth, she would no doubt have been astounded, but also delighted at such an honour.’’

Essie spent the first 27 years of her life, until her marriage, not far from here.

“She attended Linwood School, roamed the Port Hills, wrote poems about the Cathedral, the pioneers, the Plains and the Alps, some of which were published in the Christchurch Star-Sun, and set many novels in the city and surrounding countryside.’’

“Nothing gave Essie greater pleasure than to hear from so many readers around the world that they came to New Zealand to visit the places she so vividly and lovingly described.’’

Bill and Elizabeth said their mum and dad would have been impressed with the way Christchurch had recovered.

“This rebuilt retirement village is a wonderful example of the resilience and determination required.’’

The village is on track to be fully rebuilt and reopened early next year. It will be home to 147 residents.

About Ryman Healthcare:Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies.  The company owns 30 villages and serves over 8,000 residents in New Zealand and Australia.  Each village offers a combination of retirement living and aged care.

Media advisory:For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602.

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