"Vera Ballance was highly qualified when she came to Tawa in 1961 as the new Plunket Nurse, and served the community for the following 20 years. Now retired, she was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in 1983 [as seen in the above photo] for her community service." - quote from Barbara Adams' book "I Remember Tawa".
"Sister Ballance", as she continues to be called by many who know her, still resides in Tawa*, and has seen babies she once assisted (or more likely, it was their mothers who were the ones assisted) grow up and become mothers and even grandmothers themselves. When we asked one "older local" if she knew of Vera Ballance, the response was: "She was Tawa's Plunket Nurse. She's an amazing lady. She did wonderful things with kids."
You'll find considerably more about this "amazing lady" in the book mentioned earlier (pages 94-96). The following merely scratches the surface.
Where were you born, Vera?
Where did you grow up?
What about college and tertiary education?
I went to Clifford National School (connected to St Andrew's Church) in Sheffield up until the age of 15. I then did orthopaedic and general nursing training in Sheffield, three years training at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, before going to London to what was known as Mothercraft Training Society (run on Truby King lines - 'Plunket training').
What was your line of work?
Nursing. Always wanted to work with children, thus all my earlier training. Came to New Zealand in 1951. Started nursing at Wellington Hospital. There for 3 months before going to Karitane, in charge of the premature babies section. "The smallest baby was 1lb 14ozs - now she's a grandma!" I was in Wanganui for 4 months with Karitane, then to 'Coastal Towns' as a Plunket sister. Because I was working from just north of Otaki right down to Plimmerton, "I had to learn to drive a car to do it, and the only area that had street numbers then was Paekakariki."
I came to Tawa in July 1961 as Plunket nurse, actually a 'sister', one "who's done all her training", and worked here until I retired in 1981. In my first year in Tawa I was responsible for the care of the Mason quadruplets whose family lived here at the time.
What about family?
I had an aunty and cousins living in New Zealand when I first arrived.
What are your interests/hobbies?
Do a lot of reading. Was president of 'Linden Good Neighbours Club' for 14 years. Arranged ten holidays away for the group, sometimes 50 people at a time, all over-60s - to places like Nelson, New Plymouth, Hamilton, Napier. The last one I arranged was to Norfolk Island.
I started a 'Bonus Baby Club' for older mothers, mostly ones having their fourth or fifth baby, but some older mothers having their first. I lectured at Tawa College on mothercraft. I used to do a terrific lot of photography in the days of colour slides.
How long have you lived in Tawa?
What do you think is great about Tawa?
It's a very compact, supportive sort of area. I enjoy being here, especially when the weather's good (it was bucketing down outside at the time - Ed.). "A lot of nice people."
What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
Nothing that immediately springs to mind.
What is your favourite dessert?
Don't necessarily have one. "My 106-year-old Scottish friend at Longview would say pavlova!"
Favourite style of music?
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
I think the whole of New Zealand's beautiful. "I've been from North Cape down to Bluff and Stewart Island."
Couldn't say, but after a moment ... "Don't put it down, put it away!"
If you could meet any three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
Probably my mother who died in 1961, my father who died in 1929 when I was 7, and any of my relations in England.
What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Food, some books, water.
What is one talent you would like that you do not have?
Maybe to play the piano.
What is one talent you have that you could not do without?
Sense of humour, seeing the funny side of things.
What accomplishments/achievements in your life give you the most satisfaction/pride?
My Queen's Service Medal, quite a surprise, a year or two after I retired. Awarded for my work with Plunket, my 'Baby Bonus Club' and work with the Maori Women's Welfare League - I go to the Maori Anglican Church in Elsdon (partly Maori language).
Any thing or things you would like to do before you die?
I have travelled quite a bit - Philippines, Singapore, Japan, England, etc, but "I don't think I'll be going back overseas again, the insurance is too high when you have age and health problems."
Compiled July 2009.
* By November 2010 Vera had moved from her own home to Longview Home in Tawa.
Vera passed away on 10 February 2012.