Home > News > Archive > 16th June 2005

Edna marks century in style

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

Edna BedfordBy Dean Taylor

When the church bells rang out on Saturday afternoon it was to celebrate 100 wonderful years of the life of Edna Lila Bedford.

Gathered with her were her four sons Bruce, Alan, Lance and Rex, and their families, to look back over a century of the life of a woman known simply as Nana.

She was born the youngest of eight children to the Dynes farming family at Ararimu. Life was hard, but there was always a strong sense of family, sharing and helping that was to become part of Mrs Bedford’s nature for life.

Disease wiped out the family stock and the family moved to Matatoki, near Thames, where they first worked on farms before taking over the Matatoki General Store and Post Office. The children attended Kopu School and Thames High School by train.

Mrs Bedford recalls when she was about eight-years-old, all the children at Kopu School were lined up along the roadway to see the first car in the Thames area go past. She had her first ride in a car when she went to Thames Railway Station to see her brother Frank come home from war.

Her older brother Bob also served overseas and was one of the first New Zealand soldiers to return from Gallipoli. He was later killed in action and his body never recovered.

The family started a closer relationship with the motor car in the 20s, when her Mrs Bedford’s father set up a business selling Ford Model T’s at Turua.

Mrs Bedford had a distinguished high school career, attaining a Junior and Senior Scholarship, was first in New Zealand in the Civil Service exam and won numerous awards, including school dux.

Her high school years coincided with World War I and the dreadful flu epidemic. Mrs Bedford recalls delivering the telegrams that came through the family store, which often carried tragic news from around the country and the war.

When she finished high school in 1922 prospects for a young woman were not good, as the main priorities for employment were for returned servicemen. She took over the Post and Telegraph Office to assist her aging parents.

During these teenage years she had met one Walter Bedford - a young mechanic who hailed from the thriving community of Puriri. The young people would meet at the pictures every Friday night and on the many community outings that were common at the time. Mrs Bedford says those community days were great for local spirit, and believes that spirit has been lost over the years. The couple married in 1924 and settled in Thames where Mr Bedford ran a garage.

Then, and for all their subsequent businesses, Mrs Bedford looked after the bookkeeping and trained the receptionists.

The garage was ruined by fire and in 1929 the Bedford family, now with two sons, Alan and Bruce, moved to Korakonui where they set about breaking in a 2000 acre block. It was developed into five farms which were sold off, and the family moved over the hill to Ngahape.

The youngest boys, Lance and Rex, were born and the family of six was complete.

It was the depression years and to help make ends meet Mr Bedford also worked in sales while Mrs Bedford put all her skills to good use to ensure her boys didn’t go without anything. As well as looking after her family, Mrs Bedford also took in family, friends and workers and make sure everyone was well fed and well looked after. She also joined the League of Mothers and shared her skills and attributes with others in the community.

In 1940 the Bedfords swapped the farm for a timber retail and joinery business.

World War II was starting to impact on the country and once again Mrs Bedford was to the fore in leading the way on how to cope in those situations. Being in town meant she was also able to share herself around other community groups, joining the Home Nursing division of St John Ambulance and administering first aid at sports fixtures and taking an active role in the Baptist Church.

In 1946 they sold the Te Awamutu business and bought the engineering and blacksmith shop at Kihikihi.

During the 1950’s the couple became involved together in gem collecting, which Mrs Bedford made into jewellery. It also marked the period where the boys were beginning families of their own and Mrs Bedford relished the role of nana. The couple retired in 1969 and five years later celebrated their Golden Wedding.

Mr Bedford died in 1978, leaving his devoted wife and large family.

Mrs Bedford continued an active life for as long as she was able, and is still an avid crossworder and reader. She enjoys her friends and family, and never as much as for the special celebrations to celebrate her 100 years.