Jill Jeffs of Orewa likes to tackle problems, head on – it’s something that stood her in good stead throughout her life, including when she found herself as a young, pregnant mother living in a condemned building with no power, plumbing, car or phone – and also during four terms as a Rodney District councillor.
Recently the 88-year-old Maygrove Village resident decided to put her life story down in writing, and says she did so because of encouragement from a good friend.
The title, No Such Word, comes from her father’s advice that “there is no such word as ‘can’t’” and Jill took this to heart, facing various hardships and challenges with determination.
While many of her peers may relate to Jill’s experiences as a child in the Depression and World War II years in England, followed by emigration to New Zealand as a teenage war bride there are also aspects to intrigue younger readers, such as her description of fashion conscious young women during the war dying their legs with potassium to the colour of stockings – even inking a black seam down the backs of the legs to make it look more realistic!
Jill says she also put pen to paper to highlight “the real meaning of poverty”.
“There are many today who say they’re in poverty, but they don’t know what real poverty is,” she says. I wanted people to realise that solo mums and beneficiaries today are luckier than I was when we first came here. There was no social welfare, no way of helping young mums with children when their husbands disappeared. My family sent me a little bit of money after my husband left, but I had to find a way to survive on my own resources. Perhaps others will read this and think ‘if she can do it, so can I’. I’ve always said you can find a way around any problem.”
Jill’s connection with the Hibiscus Coast began with holidays in Army Bay and she eventually moved here in 1988 with her husband Ron.
She recounts her experiences on Rodney District Council, which included protesting to get a new Orewa South bridge built and fighting to get Whangaparaoa Rd widened, sealed and with a footpath from the highway to Red Beach School “so children and parents could walk to the shops and church safely”.
She was 77 when she retired from Council and was elected to the District Health Board – “I didn’t want to die with my boots on,” she says.
The former teacher says that the writing process came relatively easily once she got going, and she received help with self-publishing from Arkles Bay author Alan Sayers. She says publication of the book has helped her family to understand “why I keep on fighting and get on my soap box from time to time”.
The former Grey Power activist, who also successfully lobbied to get a bus service set up from retirement villages into Orewa town centre, says she finds people apathetic now, especially the elderly. “They don’t seem to think they have the right to stand up and say what they want, they accept what they get and that’s a pity.”
Her latest campaign is to make footpaths in retirement villages mandatory – she says a lot of retirement villages don’t have them, which causes issues for residents, so she’s approached Hibiscus & Bays Local Board chair Julia Parfitt to see if that can be improved, making footpaths part of any new village’s conditions of consent.
“It’s the only way I know,” Jill says. “When you see a problem, you find a solution.”
To purchase the book contact Jill, phone 427 0517. It can also be requested from local libraries.
Hibiscus Matters has two copies of No Such Word, by Jill Jeffs, to give away to readers.
To go in the draw, message us on Facebook, or write your name, address and daytime phone number on the back of an envelope and post to No Such Word, Hibiscus Matters, Unit G, Tamariki Plaza, Tamariki Ave, Orewa 0931.
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