Guest Post: Our Beautiful Aunt Beryl

May 31

Our Beautiful Aunt Beryl Passed Away Yesterday

She was dearly loved and I wrote the below piece below about her. She lived in Wanganui for most of her life and I asked the local paper if they would publish the piece but she was not “news-worthy” which I kind of get. But we adored her and she was a great person.

She chose not to have a funeral. Maybe this could be shared in her honour.

My Aunty Beryl (Goodman nee Harris)

My Aunty Beryl (Goodman nee Harris)

I ran away from home when I was four. No doubt there was a good reason. I got on my tractor (of a size befitting a four year old and entirely plastic with no motor) and trucked on off down Waiotahi Rd in Thames. I flew across the main road, clearly dodging the infrequent cars in 1970, and went to my Aunt Beryl’s house. She hid me from my mum (I thought) but in truth rang her (“number please?”… “1,8,double9”) and told her I was okay.

When people are around a lot vivid early memories are sometimes scarce. However, I remember her Ford “A something or other – heap of crap” called “Gerty” that ran out of petrol in Pollen St and was pitch black and got so very hot in summer. I remember her taking us swimming in the Kauaeranga River to cool us down on those summer days.

I also remember going to her and her husband’s house in 1974 to watch “The Rumble in the Jungle”. I could not believe that the relatively slight man should even step into the ring to be pummelled by Foreman, but in Round 8 my view of the world changed.

Pity my uncle seemed inspired by the boxing to beat my aunty and it was a measure of her as a person that she left him. There is nothing new under the sun.

Beryl loved doing stuff. The beach, fish’n’chips, arguing, stray cats, stray people.

She was an incredible hoarder. Without a word of a lie she kept mushrooms she had picked with me from 1978 until the day she died and would still put a few of them in a stew towards the end. She had two little houses in Wanganui: one for her and one for her junk (oops … treasures).

Children are a great judge of character and my kids loved their great Aunt Beryl from the moment they met her. Somehow they knew just to hang with her; that life had been tough and she had resilience. Being born in the early 1930s into one of NZ’s poorest suburbs (Aramoho, Wanganui) to a huge family, with an alcoholic and violent father, in a State house with a mass of siblings and very little – of anything – gave you two choices; bitterness or grace. To those who loved life; she chose grace. To those who tried to take advantage; her tongue and manner were sharp. As my children grew into wonderful adults they loved her to bits and grace won through.

My Aunt Beryl loved adventure and loved people. I could not go to and through a Kenny Rogers’ concert but Karen (my beautiful wife) asked her and she was in like Flynn. As a kid I can remember being desperate to go to a particular rugby game. We got there, Thame Valley vs North Auckland, and at first she went off as she thought she had driven an hour to see “the bloody Irish” (to this day I cannot work out why she thought that), but then settled to watch a Sid Going masterclass. She even had the patience to explain to a very small me that there was no “Lew” who could catch any ball – instead “he has hands like glue”. Funny what you remember forty years later.

There are two songs I associate with my Aunty. The first I heard played around a camp-fire when she took me away some time in the 70s:

“So long, boy, you can take my place
Got my papers, I got my pay
So, pack my bags, and I’ll be on my way
To Yellow River (Yellow River)
Put my guns down, the war is won
Fill my glass high, the war is won
I’m goin’ back to the place that I love
Yellow River (Yellow River)
Yellow River, Yellow River
Is in mind, and in my eyes
Yellow River, Yellow River
Is in my blood, it’s the place I love
Got no time for explanations, got no time to lose
Tomorrow night, you’ll find me sleepin’ underneath the moon
At Yellow River”

The second she invariably sung at a Harris clan party before the night was too old (she modified the lyrics a little):
“The working class can kiss my arse I’ve found a bludger’s job at last.”

I guess my Aunty was ordinary and the westerly will blow in across Wanganui again tomorrow. But New Zealand is built on such ordinary blocks and I will miss my beautiful Aunty. God loved her and God bless her.

I think in eternity we are re-created at our best moment. I cannot wait to see again my beautiful Beryl glorified like in this photo – o death where is your sting?

Your loving nephew – Alwyn (and his beautiful family).


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