A celebration of the life of Liz Hansen

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

A celebration of the life of Liz Hansen

Good afternoon family and friends. Thank you all so much for your love and support over the last few days and for coming here today to celebrate Liz’s life. Her death has come a big shock to all of us and for me this week seems somewhat surreal.

Most of you know me, but to avoid any doubt, I am David Hansen, Liz’s husband, and soul mate. Supporting me are our daughters, Jenni on the left and Pippa on the right.

Liz was born Elizabeth Rose Dutton in 1951, named after the Queen, and she grew up in the modest family home on the edge of the Tamaki Estuary at Pt England.

She attended the local schools and it was here that some of her lifelong traits started to become evident. She studied diligently and did well, one report noting ‘she unnecessarily worries, always trying to be near the top of the class’ At Intermediate she contracted Rheumatic Fever and St Vitus’s Dance, necessitating 6 months in bed. During much of this time she could not read or write, but she had a wonderful teacher who used come every day after school to read to her and keep up her schooling. She then went to Tamaki College where she was Dux and Head Prefect before going on to do a BA in History and English at Auckland University.

One story, often recounted, occurred during her school years. She was on her bicycle and lost control going across the back lawn which sloped down towards the estuary. Rather than go through the gate, over the bank and into the tide she crashed into the hen house. I suspect there were no eggs for a few days.

She also was an active member of the local bible class and that is where we met, as I was boarding with the Minister. Then when a close friend and I bought a house in Grey Lynn Liz became one of the first flat mates. She decided she wanted to be a teacher and so spent a year at teachers training college. Around this time she used to ride a small motorcycle and then progressed to a Volkswagen Beetle.

She secured a teaching position at Fraser High in Hamilton, but I have to say she never really enjoyed teaching senior students. At this time we were going out together so every Friday the Beetle would head to Auckland, returning Sunday night or early Monday morning. When we decided to get married and announced this to her parents, her father spent the rest of that day whistling happily to himself ‘If I were a rich man’

We were married in February 1975 at the Point England Presbyterian Church and lived in a rented house in Onehunga, starting with a mattress on the floor and two beer crates for bedside tables. It is also my recollection that Liz paid for our first wedding rings in silver, because I had no money and we could not afford gold. But we were happy.

I had graduated in 1974 and was working for Beca Carter Hollings and Ferner Ltd, Consulting engineers in their Auckland office. However I was not very happy with my position and so when an opportunity to go to Indonesia came, I applied. They said can you go in 2 weeks? Liz wasn’t terribly impressed, so we left in 3 weeks! (after being married for about 6 months)

Life in Jakarta was very different. We stayed in a guest house in the middle of a golf course to start with. The bathroom was a tiled room with a concrete tank full of cold water in one corner and a plastic saucepan for ladling the water onto yourself – no hot showers or anything like that! I leave you to imagine what bath time was like – 2 kids throwing water at each other! Liz was not allowed to work but eventually did get a job working at the NZ Embassy dealing with passports and distressed NZrs. She also spent some time coaching one of President Suharto’s daughters in English.

In 1977 we moved to Singapore to live a slightly more normal life with Liz getting a job at the NZ High Commission doing what she had been doing in Jakarta. In 1980 Jenni was born and in 1982 Pippa was born. Pippa was born by caesarean section and I remember the doctor asking what day we wanted this to happen. I consulted my diary and found a free day so that was decision made – something that Liz never let me forget! After Jenni was born Liz stopped working but still found time to go once a week to a refugee camp to teach English. Life in Singapore was agreeable but there was the lure of grandparents and so in 1984 we returned to NZ. We returned with a 20 ft container of ‘stuff’ and two daughters, having left with 3 suitcases 9 years earlier.

While in Singapore we also travelled to Europe a number of times, the last of these travelling around by camper van with our 2 girls. Our adventures also included a week on a canal boat with my Brother and his partner and our friends Robert and Naomi from Italy – cruising by day and drinking Robert’s homemade wine by night!

Back in NZ Liz got involved with the Willow Park PTA (where the girls were going to school) and Girl Guides, eventually becoming a Brownie and then Pippin Leader. During the girls school years there were lots of adventures. Together with my Brother we had a 34 ft yacht called Albacore and we sailed the Waitemata. We also went camping every summer with friends, usually to a DOC camping ground that only had the basics (ie toilets and water) but in a beautiful location. We water skied and fished from our power boat, which the girls had called Crocky Wok (a Roald Dahl character) We went to Argentina to visit a Rotary exchange student who had lived with us and travelled around for about 4 weeks. Liz has family in Argentina and we travelled north to meet them. We disembarked from a provincial flight to be met in the terminal by about 60 people and over the next two days met about 200, all related in some way.

For Liz’s 40th birthday the girls and I hatched a secret plan. Liz belonged to a babysitting club, as one did back then, and I arranged for her to do a half sit on Saturday night, a little unusual but it did happen occasionally. While she was away the guests all arrived and were enjoying drinks in the lounge. All went quiet when Liz was heard at the front door. In she came and up the stairs with 2 litres of milk bought on the way home. The lounge door was opened and she stepped in –  you can imagine the commotion! Shortly afterwards the singing Gorilla Gram arrived – she was well and truly caught out!

With the girls now teenagers Liz was looking at what she might do and found that they wanted Primary teachers and that she could convert by doing an online course. This she did and then found a job at Willow Park teaching new entrants, which she loved and was very good at. Her commitment to the job and her creativeness was something to behold.

In 2006 I had the opportunity to retire a little earlier than planned so Liz followed suit. Jenni married Eric and Pip was working. Our involvement with St Aidans Presbyterian Church increased and again Liz’s creativeness came to the fore, as did her care for others and her strong faith. Years of adventures followed for us as a couple, often with friends.

In late 2008 a former work colleague sent us an email and said would we like to do this – go and house sit a chateau in southern France for a year, but………………..we needed to be there the week before Christmas! I was the accelerator, Liz was the handbrake! Liz was looking forward to a Christmas when both girls would be home. We asked the girls and the answer was almost predictable – they quoted back to us things we had said to them like ’when was the last time you did something for the first time?’ Needless to say we went. That summer in France we went camping – 6 weeks travelling by car with a small tent and a little equipment, stopping at a random campground each night. We could set up camp and have our first glass of wine poured within 10 minutes – it was a glorious trip!

With our first Grandson due in late 2009 Liz made the difficult decision not to go home. Murphy was alive and well – we were holding a dinner party at the chateau for about 10 when the phone rang to say Lucas had arrived. We had some Champagne put away for the occasion so in addition to all the other wine we drank this as well and a good friend took over serving the rest of dinner while we talked to NZ. Needless to say some were not so sharp the next day including our friend who said that even after 5 cups of tea she still didn’t feel quite right! Jenni, Eric and Lucas plus Eric’s family and Te Rina had Christmas with us at the Chateau before we went to Bordeaux for Lucas’ christening.

During this time we also scattered some of Liz’s Father’s ashes at Beachy Head near Eastborne where he had grown up. Liz’s brother John, his wife and some other family members were also with us. Liz and I did a recce to decide the spot and we chose a little clump of bushes near a park bench. The next day we went at the time we had agreed, only to find someone sitting on the park bench ……………….so this group of people wandered around trying to be inconspicuous while waiting to pounce on the park bench as soon as it was vacated. I am sure the occupier must have thought something strange was going on. However, in the end the mission was accomplished.

We returned to NZ in early 2010 and the adventures continued. We travelled to New York then Boston before picking up a rental car and driving through small town America on our way to Minneapolis. Along the way we met all sorts of people, visited Amish country, stayed in some unusual little towns and enjoyed a few days in Chicago. On other trips we also travelled all around the USA National Parks of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, Yosemite and Zion. On our way to a Rotary International Convention in Montreal we drove through the Rockies and stayed in Banff where Pippa had worked.

In 2012/13 we returned to the Chateau in France for another year but this time Liz did return for the birth of our second Grandson Julien. As on the previous time Jenni, Eric and his family all came to the Chateau for Christmas before travelling to Bordeaux for Julien’s christening.

In spring of 2013, before returning to NZ, we decided to walk some of the ancient Pilgrim route known as ‘The Camino de Santiago’. This proved both an adventure and a challenge – walking 20 to 25 km per day, staying in Pilgrim accommodation and crossing the Pyrenees while it was snowing. We stopped at Burgos after walking 250 Km and were planning to finish the walk next year.

In 2015 we did something Liz had wanted to do for some time, tour the South Island. We were away about 5 weeks, driving and staying in camp grounds and motels. The early part of the trip was a 4 wheel drive ‘High Country Adventure’ which at times put both of us outside our comfort zone. When I asked Liz why there were no pictures of the most spectacular parts she replied she was too busy hanging on! We also met up with friends and cycled the Otago Rail Trail. Earlier I mentioned Liz’s cycling into the hen house, well cycling was not really her forte and she had not been on a bicycle for many years. But with a little persuasion she took a free cycling lesson with Auckland Council and got prepared. What she was not really prepared for, however, was the second day of almost continuous up hill. She said she thought it was going to finish her off! Also she loved to take photos, so we were always last to arrive at the end of the day. At the end she agreed it was a great experience and wonderful country – ahh the satisfaction. Perhaps it was this that encouraged her to join the YMCA gym this year and start to get much fitter.

In the middle of the year we went to the Rotary International Convention at Sao Paulo and after this travelled with the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians for 3 days ending up in Rio de Janiero. On our way back we again visited our Exchange student from Argentina. We were welcomed with open arms, she is now married with 2 children but is still the same person we knew, just 20 years older.

Later in 2015 we travelled in support of Adam when he competed in the World Half Ironman competition in Austria. After this we enjoyed the delights of Austria and the Czech Republic while travelling with Pippa and Adam, and Adam’s parents Carol and Dan. This is when we first heard about the latest addition to the family – Pip was pregnant, the baby due not long after their wedding in February.

Meanwhile back home Liz was leading the Kids Friendly team at St Aidans, was on 2 other teams and was one of 3 Executive Elders who together with Alf manage the running of St Aidans. As part of St Aidans outreach Liz also spent 1.5 hours per week helping in the classroom at Northcote Primary.

Liz loved her family and especially the ‘little guys’, cared for her community and applied her skills and creative talents to the full. She was really looking forward to the arrival of a new grandson but sadly missed his arrival by 48 hours. We had agreed this was to be the year of the houses –  it was a standing joke that she had been waiting about 8 years for her new kitchen (but other projects seemed to keep jumping the queue) However architectural concept plans had been drawn and so she could see there was some light at the end of the tunnel.

Liz also loved food and wine, particularly seafood even if it didn’t love her – perhaps this was the Maori in her.  She also loved facebook and was a prolific poster of positive messages. This was her way of keeping in touch with a wide range of friends and family.

Darling Liz we love you and miss you so much. You gave so much and did so much and it hurts to see you leave us so young. But that is destiny, we know you are at peace with your maker and will be watching over us as we continue our journey through life.

From myself, Jenni/Eric/Lucas&Julien and Pippa/Adam&little Mahé, may God be with you.