STEVENSON, BLANCHE SARAPHINA nee WRIGHT
Blanche Wright was born on the 16 August 1891 at her parents residence "St Katherine's", Rahotu. She was the fourth daughter of William Ralston Wright and Katherine nee Doherty. Blanche's early years revolved around the home and farm, and she assisted with milking, gardening and other farm duties. Her mother died as the result of a farm accident while Blanche was young, and the family were brought up by an aunt, Mrs Jane Doherty (nee Wright). Blanche's schooling was at Rahotu, and the golden crown on top of the memorial school gates was a gift from her family.
On the 15 July 1914, Blanche married John Andrew Stevenson at Pungarehu. The Stevenson's owned several farms at Pihama, and John and Blanche settled on the Watino Road property. They proceeded to clear the flax covered land and turn it into a dairy farm. A three acre garden was developed, complete with orchard and tennis court. Chinese gooseberrys (Kiwifruit) were some of the first plants, followed by golden loquats, guava, cranberry, damsons, plums, grapes, passionfruit and apple trees imported from Scotland. The flower garden included huge beds of red gerberas, roses, delphiniums, lilies and all the latest and newest discoveries in the plant world. Blanche developed an extensive knowledge of suitable plants for coastal areas, and often advised local schools in their plantings. She was a member of the Horticultural Society, and in the 1940's was honoured by a Fellowship of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, an award she treasured for the rest of her life.
While her children were growing up, she became aware of the Plunket movement. It was an organisation that appealed to her and for a great period of her life, Blanche was deeply involved in assisting the movement. She canvassed for funds, held numerous garden parties, and catered for Farmers Co-op sale days. The Opunake Plunket rooms, nurses flat and garage were some of the results of her work. She encouraged mothers to attend the Plunket clinics in the area. The Opunake Plunket nurses were always included in the family activities. Blanche retired from active Plunket work after 27 years. She had been president, patron and life member of the Opunake branch.
During World War Two, she ran highly profitable gala days at the Pihama race course for the war effort. Blanche was noted for her prowess as an accurate shot, as the Pihama factory boys could testify when they once raided her orchard. After the war, she was one of the only women to be elected to the Rehabilitation committee, which assisted returned servicemen. Blanche was involved in all aspects of the community, and often took a leading position.
Blanche Stevenson died on the 9 October 1965 at Hawera and is buried at the Lizzie Bell cemetery, Pihama.
Melva Yarrow, Manaia (daughter)
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