Ngā mate

I wish to advise of the recent passing of my mother, Rona (Terry) Potter (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Māmoe), on November 21, 2013.

Terry, who was born at Bluff on April 6, 1928, descended from Ngāi Tahu chief,  Karetai. Her parents were Ruahine Eliza Fowler and Ronald Stuart-Sutherland. She was the youngest of three children. Her much-loved brother Fergus and sister, Kim (Grace) passed on many years ago.

Her given name at birth was Rona but she preferred to call herself ‘Terry’ and most people knew her as this. Her mother, Ruahine, was a granddaughter of South Island paramount chief Karetai. Karetai was a man of courage and foresight. He gifted thousands of acres of land to the settlers flooding into the Dunedin area at that time. He was a signatory of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Terry’s father was a Scottish immigrant, Ronald Stuart-Sutherland, who was able to combine his chosen employment of lighthouse-keeper with his interests as an ornithologist. He wrote numerous articles on birds and the samples he provided are still used as resource material in places of learning in New Zealand, such as the University of Canterbury in Christchurch.

After her birth, neither of Terry’s parents were available to raise her. Her brother and sister went to boarding school and her grandmother, Mary Te Kaehe Fowler brought Terry up. She entered a household of love and freedom, with an appreciation of the spiritual and seasonal rituals such as mutton-bird harvesting. Terry recalled that there was never an angry or improper word used in that house and she was very happy there.

Her grandmother became ill and died in 1940. Shortly before this, at about aged 12, Terry began as a student at Te Waipounamu Girls School. The institutionalised atmosphere of Te Waipounamu was an extreme contrast to Terry’s earlier life. However some fellow pupils remember her strong artistic ability and how she and another student were asked to design the school logo. Terry’s dressmaking and sewing skills were also utilised for the benefit of the school.

Terry was pleased to enter a teacher traineeship on leaving school. This took her to towns such as Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty and Kaeo in the Far North.

She was eventually introduced to her future husband, Thomas Tangiihia Savage Potter of Matatā. The couple married in 1953 and they raised six children and one foster child Jean. Terry also cared for Tom’s father in his later years. She is survived by David, her eldest son of Matatā, Dawn her eldest daughter of Whakatāne, Michelle of Auckland, Thomas of Sydney, and twins, Kim of Wellington and Jon of Sydney. She was a loving and caring mother with a kind heart and always encouraged her children to do well.

She was most proud of her 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and always celebrated their achievements.

Terry lived at Matatā, a small coastal town in the eastern Bay of Plenty, for nearly 50 years. During those years, Terry experienced the gradual arrival of refrigerators, electric stoves and washing machines. She originally used a copper and mangle, then the wringer washing machines and finally the fully automated versions. Terry is remembered as a hard-working housekeeper – there were jokes about being able “to eat off her floors”, as they were kept so clean.
For many years she worked on the local Matatā telephone exchange when phone calls were answered by a real person saying “number please’ and it wasn’t unusual to have party lines, which meant sharing the same phone line with other people.

In recent years Terry lived with her youngest daughter Kim, one of her twins. They lived in Whakatāne for more than 10 years and then Wellington, where she spent five years before passing away of a severe stroke at the grand age of 85 years.

Terry continued her lifetime interests right up to her passing. She was an exceptional home baker. She loved to garden and she had an appreciation for unusual and interesting plants, which she chose from garden catalogues.

Terry also had an abiding interest in art and design. This ability has been passed on to her children and grandchildren and there are now architects and industrial designers in the family. She loved animals and always owned cats, often exotic breeds. She strived to understand societal changes as they occurred and supported moves such as the 60s women’s lib and 70s equal pay movements

It was Terry’s long time wish to be buried with Tom, her late husband, who passed away in 1988. At Awakaponga Cemetery she will be among people they both knew and loved, many of whom shared their life at Matatā. They will be surrounded by friends and Tom’s whānau there, in land donated for this purpose by his grandparents. Terry will be always be remembered with much love and affection.
Nā Dawn Lett.

Terry's parents Ronald Stuart-Sutherland and wife, Ruahine Eliza nee Fowler.

Terry’s parents Ronald Stuart-Sutherland and wife, Ruahine Eliza nee Fowler.

Karetai (or Jacky White).

Karetai (or Jacky White).

Mere Te Kaehe Korako Karetai (Mrs Fowler - Terry's Grandmother).

Mere Te Kaehe Korako Karetai (Mrs Fowler – Terry’s Grandmother).

Photo of Terry at Auckland Zoo in 1961.

Terry at Auckland Zoo in 1961.

Rona (Terry) Potter.