- Murray Horton
Miss M. K. Steven
Now you might think that the above is a pretty impersonal heading for an obituary. Not at all, it's exactly how its subject would have wished it. When she first became a member, she was known to us only as M.K. Steven, so we didn't even know what gender she was. Eventually we did solve that mystery and Bob Leonard and I actually got to meet her at a seminar. We asked her how she wished to be addressed - "Miss M.K. Steven" was the answer, and she was adamant that she did not wish to be called Ms. So that's as much as we ever found out about her in her lifetime, despite the fact that she lived in Christchurch. So, when an August 1999 Press obituary was published about a Marion Kerr Steven, I was oblivious to its significance. I am indebted to Bob for realising who it was about.
Miss Steven came to CAFCA from Peace Researcher and the Anti-Bases Campaign, joining us in 1996. She remained a member until her death, and a particularly generous one. From December 1994 until May 1999, she donated an extraordinary $1,950 to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income. This was on top of generous donations to CAFCA. She also went on to become a member of the Philippines Solidarity Network of Aotearoa and was a generous donor to that.
So who was Marion Kerr Steven, 86 year old mystery woman and benefactor par excellence? She may have been unknown to us, but she was extremely well known to others. I am indebted to her Press obituary (19/8/99; Michael Rentoul) and to a lengthy obituary in the University of Canterbury Chronicle (2/9/99; Ms Alison Holcroft, Department of Classics).
She was born in Stratford in 1912, one of the local doctor's four children. He expected his children to follow him into medicine and Marion obliged. After being Dux of New Plymouth Girls' High School at only 15, she went to Otago University Medical School, and was one of the youngest women in New Zealand to qualify for medicine, aged 23, and topping the class in her final year. She graduated in the early 1930s and won a scholarship to Middlesex Hospital in Britain. "When the medical patriarchy found that she was a woman, they withdrew the offer. A notable brush with controversy came at Otago, when Ms (sic) Steven became involved with a university supervisor. One friend says that when Ms (sic) Steven was `found out' she was forced to give up her chosen career. She later moved to Christchurch where she spent the rest of her life" (Press). However, one door shuts, another one opens. Upon arrival in 1938, she became a student at Canterbury University College, working part time in the Library and studying Greek and Classics. From 1942 until her retirement in 1976, she taught Classics, finishing as a Reader. Classics had always been her first love, so the shift from medicine wasn't too traumatic.
She was a much loved lecturer. As one former student commented: "She was so passionate about the Greek language and everything to do with the Greeks and she wanted to share it with you. She was just so alive and interesting, the most alive and interesting woman I've ever met" (Chronicle). Her particular passion was Greek art, particularly pottery. In 1950, she married James Logie, the University's registrar - they became known for their dinner parties for visiting academics and their appearances at the University Ball. He was the love of her life, but he tragically died of cancer, after only six years of marriage. They didn't have children, and she didn't remarry. His death left her a wealthy woman and she set up a memorial collection of Greek vases, the world class Logie Collection, which remains in the Classics Department to this day, is used in hands on teaching and is open to the public. She personally funded and participated in archaeological digs in Cyprus, being particularly delighted by a Taranaki newspaper headline that read: "Taranaki Woman To Evacuate In Cyprus".
She had an eccentric side - she once told Alison Holcroft, who knew her for 35 years: "Look normal in a few ways and you can get away with anything you like" (Press). She regularly opened her home to students, professors and visiting scholars, bestowing the fruits of her garden upon them as well. "She is remembered for cycling around town on her old fashioned black bicycle (I can definitely relate to that. MH), on occasion even carrying a Greek pot in a shoebox on the carrier. In later years she cycled everywhere. After the heart attack in 1976 which forced her retirement, her doctor recommended a little light exercise. Swimming and cycling would be beneficial, she was told. One wonders if the doctor was aware that Marion interpreted this as meaning she could happily cycle ...on occasions as far as the QE11 pool, swim 30 lengths and cycle home again" (Chronicle). She had a very active retirement, for example, attending every Court Theatre production, and compiling a collection of several thousand detective novels, including valuable first editions - this has been bequeathed to the University Library.
She sounds a fascinating woman, one I regret not having known or even really met. In many ways a pioneering woman, one who suffered cruel discrimination from the patriarchy, but who went on to stamp her indelible mark in her chosen field. All we can do is thank her for her great generosity, and be grateful that she could fit us into her catholic range of interests, ranging from Homer to Hercule Poirot.Dulcie Stocker
Dulcie Stocker, who died in July 1999, aged 77, was one of the unsung heroines of Christchurch and of the broader New Zealand progressive movement. I only knew her in the last decade or so of her life, but the Stocker family had been involved with CAFCINZ (now CAFCA) since 1980. They reflect the journey we've taken in those years - we started off as very much part of the peace movement. Firstly, we knew them through their son, Scott, who was a member of ours and was active in the campaign to demilitarise Harewood and the whole gamut of peace and anti-nuclear issues that so transformed New Zealand in the 1980s. That campaign spun off into firstly, Citizens for Demilitarisation of Harewood, and then the Anti-Bases Campaign. ABC has a wonderful big laminated Press photo of us all in full regalia for our 1986 Spies' Picnic at Harewood, protesting the US Air Force flights through Christchurch Airport to service the US spybase at Pine Gap, Australia. Scott is in the front row. The family confronted the US military at considerably hotter global flashpoints too - at Dulcie's funeral, it was recounted how they visited North Korea in the early 1980s and went to the northern side of the border. Apparently young Scott shouted insults at the US troops on the southern side but Dulcie was in tears, because they were human beings too, and shouldn't be treated like that. Scott left Christchurch (he's now a Nelson teacher), so then we got to know his parents. Firstly, his father Peter, who was by then a retired National Airways Corporation pilot. He was into everything in the local peace movement and, by dint of his bald head surrounded by pure white hair and eyebrows, was impossible to miss. Peter died suddenly in 1990 - he was a great loss to his family and the wider community.
We got to know Dulcie after Peter's death. She was a complete stalwart of the peace movement, particularly of the Sumner Peace Group (she had belonged to it for decades). This group deserves its own accolades - it remains one of the few surviving peace groups anywhere in NZ; it is active; it puts its money where its mouth is; and, on the subject of mouths, it has provided some of the most mouth watering desserts and other treats for fundraisers and events that ABC has put on over the years. The Sumner Peace Group has been one of the staunchest supporters of both CAFCA and ABC, despite the ravages of age and deaths (Dulcie's was only the most recent). She was a lynchpin of the group.
She worked tirelessly with Larry Ross and the Nuclear Free Peacemaking Association (he was overcome by emotion at her funeral and couldn't finish his speech). She was active in the Restorative Justice Network (Father Jim Consedine, its chief proponent, officiated at her funeral). "D. Stocker" was a very regular correspondent to the Press - to quote from her obituary in The View From Corso (September 1999): "These letters were remarkable for their generosity of spirit and their remarkable ability to get straight to the point and stick to it". She never actually belonged to CAFCA or subscribed to Watchdog, being quite happy to get our material via the Sumner Peace Group. But she was the most generous of supporters - for years she pledged $25 per month to the CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account, which provides my income. She did this right up until the month she died, despite having had several thousand dollars frozen in the collapse of the Lyttelton Credit Union. Nor was she generous only with money - one time, she gave me a load of firewood.
The group that was Dulcie's greatest passion was Corso. She was a volunteer there for more than 40 years. She and Peter worked hard on the house to house collections until they were discontinued, in 1989; for the last decade of her life, she came into Corso's Christchurch building (which, in age and temperature, could have been used as the original meat freezer) several times a week to do receipts, and other administrative jobs. As CAFCA has come to work more and more closely with Corso and other groups based in that building, such as GATT Watchdog, this is where I saw her most. Her Corso obituary described her as the "moral centre" of Christchurch Corso. The homemade bran muffins she brought along to mailouts to share with others were as legendary as they were delicious. Dulcie never wavered from Corso, despite all its internal and external upheavals of the last couple of decades. She was rock solid. And her devotion to Corso permeated every aspect of her life and death. She refused to accept birthday presents from her kids, asking them to make a donation to Corso instead. At her funeral, the request was for no flowers but a donation to Corso instead.
Dulcie worked in all sorts of other groups, ranging from the Alliance to her Union church to involvement in the fiercely contested battles to preserve the character of Sumner and Redcliffs. She worked tirelessly from home, ringing people, networking, organising, writing letters, and hand delivering things to letterboxes all over Sumner and Redcliffs. She did all this, throughout the 1990s, despite her seriously deteriorating health. She had heart trouble and had to travel to Dunedin for surgery (as so many did before Christchurch got its own heart unit). In her last years of life, I used to wince when I saw her - she was so skinny and tiny, with such obviously bad blood circulation and difficulty breathing. Yet she continued to drag herself into Corso to work as a volunteer, and to involve herself in all the issues of the world, from the arms trade to anti-colonialism.
In the midst of all this, she had a full and active life. Born Dulcie Watson in Christchurch in 1921, she was educated at Christchurch Girls High School, from whence she acquired her lifelong love of history and languages (in later years she studied Latin, French, Spanish and Maori, by correspondence). In 1938, she began a nursing career that lasted nearly 15 years. She was a District Nurse, and her social conscience was sharpened by working in the wop wops of the Far North and East Cape, riding a horse or driving to reach remote and impoverished Maori communities in the 1940s. To quote from Scott: "For a girl raised in 1920s and 30s Christchurch, who had hardly seen a brown face before, this was a huge change. And she loved it". In 1949, she went overseas, travelling to England and Europe, long before it was the done thing for young, single New Zealand women - she hitchhiked around Europe with long distance truckies. Homesickness brought her back after 15 months, and she took up her last District Nurse post, at Takaka. It was there that she met Peter Stocker (whose most famous courting manoeuvre was to ring Dulcie and say "Nurse, nurse, come quick, my baby has swallowed a kapok mattress"). They married in 1954, and settled in Christchurch, Dulcie giving up paid nursing. They had everything in common except religion - Pete was agnostic; Dulcie's Christian faith was central to her life.
She was an internationalist to an extent most unusual in a pakeha of her generation. She lived in Brunei when Pete worked there. They regularly visited Samoa and adopted several children of different races and nationalities - there was a strong Samoan presence at her funeral. When my wife, Becky, first arrived from the Philippines eight years ago, Christchurch was a strange and cold place. She initially worked as a Corso volunteer - she remembers Dulcie going out of her way to make her feel welcome. To the end of her life, Dulcie always insisted on me telling her how was Becky.
Dulcie hated being the centre of attention, she was extremely self effacing. Speaker after speaker at her funeral made this point, and it wouldn't have been possible to honour her in her lifetime. The greatest compliment that could be paid her was that nobody had a bad word to say about her. She was the sort of person who is absolutely invaluable in any organisation - cheerful, tireless, a dedicated worker, intelligent, perceptive, and above all, warmly human. She will be greatly missed by the movement. We extend our deepest sympathies to her children - Paul, Jonathan, Julie and Scott. Let Scott have the last word: "My mother was a loving, warm, wise caring, funny and brave woman. She was extraordinarily tenacious and a wonderful mum. She leaves a huge hole in the lives of her family and friends. However, she would hate us all to sit around feeling sad and sorry, so to all of you reading this: keep up the good fight!".Bruce Jesson - Correction
The obituary of Bruce Jesson published in Watchdog 91 has elicited a correction, from his widow, Joce Jesson.
"Thank you for your generous words and spirit. However to keep the course of history straight: Bruce WAS NEVER in the Labour Party, in fact did not really vote seriously until 1984. Then it was only because we were in Otahuhu and he voted for Bob Tizard on the grounds that Tizard was cantankerous and understood economics enough to head off any stupid Roger Douglas idea. Oh dear so wrong....Bruce then quickly became thoroughly fed up as the Republican articles show and these concerns all came together as he wrote "Behind The Mirror Glass" which came out in 1987.
"We were quickly searching for an alternative. You may remember that I stood for Auckland Central as The Left Alternative against Prebble. Bruce joined the New Labour Party when it formed in the hope that a real democratic alternative could form for our country. Even then our children warned `it will all end in tears'...." (e-mail, 20/8/99).
Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. December 1999.
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