Monday, 16 December 2013

Adele Queree Aubin

                              ADELE QUEREE AUBIN
                                                                     Written by David Bell

ADELE QUEREE AUBIN was born at Pirongia 24 June, 1883. She lived all her life at Pirongia and was the youngest daughter of Jean Aubin and Ann Elizabeth Lempreire, both immigrants from the Jersey Islands in the English Channel. Her father was a prominent and highly respected citizen of the district, being valued as a medical doctor by both settlers and Maori alike. He was a Mason of the highest order and owned a local trading post that remained in the family for three generations.

Adele as a young girl.

Adele was fortunate to receive a fairly good education for the times and at the tender age of eighteen became the sole teacher and head mistress at the small Te Tahi country school. The locals provided the school building and land as well as free room and board for the teacher while the Education Board paid the teacher's salary and provided the curriculum and furniture. A Mr Millar donated an acre of his land along with enough timber to construct the twenty by twelve foot single room schoolhouse with a small pot-belly fire at one end. A local parent, Mr Yeates, carted the timber to the site while another parent (Adele's cousin Mr Ahier) built it. When the school opened in 1901 her first pupils were the children of the Ahier, Tamaki, and Yeates families.

She quit teaching when she married Walter Henry Bell, 17th May, 1903, aged twenty and moved to live permanently in Pirongia.

                                             She would have been required to live by rules like these 

Painting of the old Te Tahi school
Early photo of Adele (standing in doorway) and her Te Tahi school pupils
Walter Henry Bell, son of Henry and Sarah and husband of Adele Aubin

Adele became well known and greatly respected due, in no small measure, to her many talents and tireless community spirit. She was famous in the Pirongia area for her piano accompaniments to the old silent movies of the time. This required the special skill of keeping one eye on the movie and one on the keyboard in front of her and knowing to speed up when the horses were galloping along, and slow down when a more sedate scene appeared, or hit the heavy notes for a scary scene and the light notes for a happy one. And all this completely by ear.
She also played the organ every Sunday at church along with being involved in many other civic activities as they occurred. There wasn't much happening in Pirongia that she didn't get involved in one way or another; all this while raising eleven children and having suffered the loss of two, little Beatrice and  three year old Hugh of poisoning after eating boot polish.

Adele passed away on thirtieth of September, 1963 at the Te Awamutu Hospital after a short illness; she was eighty years old. The cause of death given was Pancreatic Cancer.

The grave of Beatrice and Hugh at the Pirongia Cemetery.
Her obituary reads: The death on the 30th of September of Mrs Adele Queree Bell of Pirongia, brought to a close a life of service to the community by a member of one of the oldest families in what was formerly known as Alexandra township. Her parents, Mr and Mrs J. Aubin, came to New Zealand from Jersey and were married at Ngaruawhahia on the 28th of August, 1867. they were the first couple to be married in the first church to be built in Ngaruawhahia and their descendants still possess the marriage certificate of number one.

Prior to his marriage, Mr Aubin had in December, 1864, opened the first store at Pirongia and the couple settled there. Mr Aubin was one of the original chairmen of the Waipa City Council. The Aubin family still plays a prominent part in Jersey affairs and Mr Duret Aubin was awarded the O.B.E. following the Second World War in recognition for his services during the German occupation.

Mrs Bell was born at Pirongia on the 24th June, 1883, and at the completion of her schooling at the local school she attended a boarding school in Auckland where she studied art and music. On the 17th of May, 1903, she married Mr W. H. Bell, a storekeeper of Pirongia, and was the first school teacher at the now defunct Te Tahi school. Although she raised a large family of thirteen children, Mrs Bell always found time to make a worthy contribution to the many organisations of which she was a member, or to other patriotic or district causes which sought her services.

An excellent pianist and singer, Mrs Bell's services were always in demand for the early concerts held in the district, and she was organist at the Pirongia Anglican Church for a considerable number of years. Mrs Bell donated the section on which the new church was recently built. She was an active worker for the Red Cross for many years and a member of the Pirongia Women's Institute. Five of Mrs Bell's sons were in the forces during World War Two.

The exceptionally large attendance at her funeral service held at the Church of England, Pirongia, was a fitting tribute to a fine mother and one of the best known and respected pioneers of the district.

Mrs Bell was predeceased by her husband in 1946 and is survived by eleven children. They are Mesdames J.E. and Joyce Butler (Te Puke), D. and Adele Dallas (Leamington), R. and Reine Kerr (Korokanui), B and Roselle Quin (Te Awamutu), J. and Shirley Perrot (Lower Hutt), and Messrs Reginald and Dorothy Bell (Pirongia), Peter and Jean Bell (Ngutunui), Eric and Irene Bell (Pirongia), Walter Aubin Bell (single, Pirongia), Maurice Perchard Bell (single, Pirongia) and Barry and Evelyn Bell (Kawerau).

There are 39 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. Mrs. Bell is also survived by her only sister, Miss Reine Aubin of Hillcrest.

The Te Awamutu Courier, September 1963

I have fond memories of Adele, or Ma-ma as we, her son Peter's children, called her. We called our other grandmother Ma and to distinguish between the two we gave Adele a double Ma. Whose idea this was is anyone's guess; I think it just happened naturally. We didn't use the usual titles most kids give their grandparents; on my mother's side it was Ma and Gunny and my father's parents were Ma-ma and Pa-pa. I never knew Pa-pa because he died in 1946, two years before I was born, but I got to know Ma-ma very well as a young boy and am forever grateful for her generous nature and kind heart.

The Bell house where Walter and Adele raised all their children is situated right beside the Pirongia school; I say is because it's still there. It changed hands some time ago but it was designated an historic building so the new owners have renovated it but kept it virtually the same as it was when built over a hundred years ago. 

The family house of Walter and Adele Bell. Pirongia School is over a fence to
the left of the picture.
The house being right next to Pirongia school was my good fortune because I was in the habit of getting blinding migraine headaches when I was a young pupil there. Whenever I succumbed to a migraine I went immediately to Ma-ma's house to try and recover enough to make the long bus ride from Pirongia to the drop-off at Mangati Road and then the trek up the paddocks to our house at Parihoro. I lived in fear of migraines and was afflicted by them often; sometimes once a week or more. My brothers often accused me of 'putting it all on' as the old saying went, but I can assure you, those migraines were genuine. A good migraine affected my vision with coloured flashes and a kind of temporary blindness followed by a vicious headache and nausea. 

On every one of these frequent occasions Ma-ma was always home. I don't know what I would have done if she wasn't. I immediately felt comforted and safe when I left the schoolgrounds and knocked on her door, pale and sick. She never once doubted me and knew intimately what my ailment was because she was well acquainted with migraines; some of her own children suffered from them from time-to-time. She called it an attack of bilious, whatever bilious meant, and she knew exactly what to do. She immediately put me into a bed and brought in a hot cup of weak tea with a piece of dry toast. Then she drew all the curtains and told me to sleep until it was time to go home. At exactly three p.m. when the 'home-time' school bell went she would get me up and take me to the bus. In retrospect, I would have liked to have stayed the night in her tender care but for some reason I always had to go home, sometimes having to stop the bus to vomit. The walk up the paddocks was a real effort which was often alleviated by my big brother Mac who would piggy-back me all the way home, even though he was just a youngster himself.  

I have never forgotten Ma-ma for her care and kindness and thinking back I can't remember ever thanking her for it. Kids just take everything for granted. It wasn't until decades later I began to think more deeply about her and come to the realization of what she meant to me. Even now, it causes me to reflect on how little I had to do with her except go to her when I was sick. 

For some reason our family was far more attached to my mother's parents than my father's and I can't explain why because I don't know why, it just was. Even at Christmas we seldom went around to her house to wish her well and I can't ever remember having a Christmas dinner there or having her around for dinner or lunch with us. I don't think any of us ever gave her a Christmas present or even a card. There was simply no exchange of gifts or good cheer that I can remember. I blame my parents for this, particularly my father who should have ensured we had a good relationship with all our grandparents. Yet despite such neglect, she unfailingly opened her heart to me when I was sick. This is the only thing that holds me to her and it saddens me that I don't have more.

But something rubbed off on me. I think something stuck in my young mind because I remember clearly when she took ill in September of 1963. I was in my first year at Te Awamutu High School. The hospital was not too far from the school so it gave me time to visit her during my lunch hour should I wish to do so, which I did, once. Some glimmer of gratitude or a spark of remembrance must have afflicted me because one evening I picked a bunch of violets from our garden and took them to school. It was difficult to keep them protected in my school bag but somehow they got through the morning in good repair. As soon as the lunch bell rang I shot out the school gates and ran up the road to the hospital. My memory of the visit is sparse but I do recall giving her the flowers and a hug for the first time ever. I have no recollection of how long I stayed or what we talked about. I do remember that she was quite weak; far from the robust little old lady who nursed me through my migraines at Pirongia. I remember during my wakeful moments hearing her bustling about the house chattering away to herself; a habit peculiar to her which I never for a moment thought strange. In fact, it was oddly comforting in a way I can't explain. 

She mentioned to someone how glad she was for my visit and that it was good I gave up my lunch hour to see her. I remember feeling pleased when I heard it. I did plan to visit again but never got the chance; she died suddenly a week later. 

Headstone for Adele Queree and Walter Henry Bell.
Birth Certificate.

If anyone reading this has more history and information about Adele Bell, especially your own memories, I would be grateful to receive them at and edit it into this blog. 
Written by David Bell.
1. Personal memories.
2. Interview with Jean Bell, July, 2003
3. The Bells of Pirongia, a family history compiled by Robin Wood, daughter of Reg Bell. Published 2001.

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