21 July 1922 – 10 February 2022
The Mahurangi district lost a lady in the true sense of the word when Tui Mason passed away at Summerset Village in February, aged 99 years. Although only slight in stature, she was a woman with great energy and dedication, which was directed towards her family, her community and her country.
Tui was born at Warkworth Cottage Hospital to Fred and Ruby King, who farmed at Streamlands on Woodcocks Road. She was named by her father who remembered seeing the tui in the bush in the King Country where he worked prior to World War I. Fred and Ruby also had four sons – Linton, Gordon, Ian and Hector. The Streamlands area, now the site of Southern Paprika, was made up of balloted 100-acre blocks for returned soldiers and about 20 families occupied the area.
Tui and her brothers were educated at the Kourawhero Primary School, which had a roll of 24 pupils, opening in 1924 and closing in 1936. As a child, she excelled at sport and her father would take her to district athletics events, as well as hockey, basketball, tennis and softball. Later in life, she took up badminton and golf.
After completing her studies at Warkworth District High School, she attended Teachers Training College in Epsom, boarding at Rockland’s Hall in Gillies Avenue. She spent several years teaching in country schools in the Far North during the war years when times were hard financially, physically and mentally.
Through her brothers, who were in the services, she met Gordon Mason, a young man in the army who was from Kaipara Flats. Tui and Gordon became a couple and were married in a double wedding ceremony with her brother Linton and his finance Joyce Miller in August 1944. A week later, Gordon returned to camp and Tui headed back up north to her teaching position at Taipuha. In 1945, she was man powered to the Kaipara Flats School where Margaret Morrison was principal. It was the beginning of a long association with the school and community.
After the war, Gordon went to work for the trucking firm Smith & Davies in Kaipara Flats. The young couple ran a carrying business, living on the Mason family farm initially, before buying a rundown farm of their own on Old Woodcocks Road, as well as the neighbouring Quinn farm. For the next 25 to 30 years, they worked the farms and set up the Torvale Murray Grey Stud.
Early in those farming years, Gordon was encouraged to stand for the Rodney County Council. In total, he spent 32 years in public life, serving on the County Council, Auckland Regional Authority and NZ Roads Board, and he served terms as the county chairman and the chairman of the NZ Local Body Association. He was also the first Mayor of the former Rodney District Council.\
Tui and Gordon had three children – Alaister, Elizabeth and David – who grew up at Kaipara Flats. For Tui, this was a busy and happy time in her life, helping to rebuild a country area ravaged by two wars and in need of lots of fundraising, working bees and sharing in all the necessary sacrifices to get the area back to full strength. Eventually, the old farm was sold and a new house built above the school where Tui spent many years relieving and as a teacher aide. She was instrumental in establishing a monthly dinner for the aged at the Methodist Church, as well as helping people to do their shopping. She helped set-up a branch of Save the Children in Warkworth, as well as the local Country Women’s Institute, Kaipara Flats Craft Group, Kaipara Flats Garden Club and Kaipara Flats Combined Church Guild. The Kaipara Flats library, Ranfurly Hall, Warkworth Women’s Probus and service clubs also benefited from her patronage.
Gordon was knighted in 1991 for services to local government, a title his family say he would never have achieved without Tui’s steadfast support in the background. In her new role, Tui met many prominent people. This included lunching with the Queen and Prince Phillip on board HMY Britannia, meeting Prince Charles and Princess Diana, the Queen of Denmark, the Crown Prince of Brunei, Dame Cath Tizard and Sir Edmund and Lady Hillary. She also presented medals to winners at the Commonwealth Games.
However, family and friends remained the bedrock of Tui’s life and she was always available to give love, advice and encouragement. After Gordon died in 2010, Tui moved from their Alnwick Street home to Summerset.