Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mrs. Vera Crawford (1907-2006)

Written as an obituary, for the Spider's Web.

On Friday 19th May 2006, Mrs. Vera Florence Rebecca Crawford, née Syers, died aged 98. With her passing, another part of Avondale’s history slipped away. Mrs. Crawford came to Avondale with her family in 1916, her father a railwayman, in charge of the lines from Avondale to Henderson until his retirement in 1931. Mrs. Crawford first saw Avondale in the days when horse-and-cart was still the main way goods were delivered to homes, before the Great North Road was concreted, before there was even a Borough Council, let alone the amalgamation with Auckland City.

She married Jim Crawford in the 1940s, and together they managed and operated the Morrison & Crawford Garage at 1851-1853 Great North Road until Mr. Crawford’s first stroke in 1957, and then his death in September 1966.

After Mr Crawford died, Mrs Crawford managed the business for another ten years, shifting the service station and realigning it to its current layout. As reported in a contemporary trade magazine: “Whilst we now see women taking an increasing part in the management of New Zealand service stations, she surely was a pioneer in this area. And why did she take on this challenge? ‘Because people told me that (as a woman) I couldn’t do it,’ says Mrs Crawford.”

In 1976, the business was sold to Curtis & Miller, and more recently was known as Tahal’s Service Station. It is currently under the Caltex brand.

Mrs. Vera Crawford had, during her life, served as a nurse in the Melanesian Missions, worked for Plunket and the Anglican Church, and even supported a Mother’s Union group in her last years at Selwyn Village, where they celebrated her long and busy life on Monday 22 May. In June 2001, she took time out to talk to me, while I was gathering information on our village’s past for Heart of the Whau. “You won’t get much from me,” she’d said on meeting her and shaking her hand. “I don’t remember much.” I was there at her unit for three hours, that first time, and left amazed and awed by how much that wonderful lady did remember. Thanks to her, we have some of those memories to pass on to those who come after us.

Mrs. Vera Florence Rebecca Crawford, 1907-2006 – Avondale businesswoman, nurse, community stalwart, matriarch to her family and a determined lady. Thank you, Mrs. Crawford, for the pleasure of knowing you.

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