By Helen Martin
In September, Helensville lost a much-loved member of the community when Rhonda Grace (74) died in a tragic accident. Typically, Rhonda was lending a helping hand to a family of old friends in Kumeu when she was hit by a car and died at the scene.
Rhonda was born in Helensville in 1943, the first of four children and the only girl born to Hector and Jean Narbey, who farmed in Mangakura Road. She attended Helensville Primary School and Kaipara College and after leaving school worked as a hairdresser. She married Thomas Grace in 1965, eventually becoming mother to three daughters, Gaylene, Robyn and Lynda and grandmother to eight grandchildren.
Speakers at Rhonda’s funeral, where there was standing room only in the tightly packed St Matthews Church, testified to her warm and caring nature, strength, generosity, huge capacity for hard work and lifetime of tireless contribution to her community. In his eulogy Leon Narbey, Rhonda’s cousin, quoted Robyn saying that her mother “could go from milking cows, to feeding out hay, to cutting the neighbour’s hair, to baking, to preserving, to sewing us new dresses, to doing the accounts, to tending the garden – all before lunch!”
As well as working hard on the family farm and supporting Thomas in his political life and the girls in all their activities, Rhonda gave her time to many community organisations over the years, including Plunket Mothers, Helensville Playcentre, Farmers Young Wives, Helensville Floral Art Group, Helensville A&P Association, Mt Eden Four Seasons Garden Club, Helensville Primary Centennial, Helensville & District Historical Society, Woodhill School PTA, Helensville Players, the Northern Sports Car Club, Military Vehicles Club, Helensville RSA, Kumeu Rotary and Waimauku Village Theatre. For 30 years she took an active and much valued role in the Girl Guide movement, eventually becoming District Commissioner.
Fond memories of red-haired Rhonda as someone with “hard-working hands” who was always the first to volunteer with a big, ready smile were shared by representatives of some of those organisations, while grandchildren Morgan and Jonathan testified to her supportive and inspirational role in their lives. In his eulogy Leon quoted Gaylene’s description of her mother, which summed up what others had to say of her, “She was hard working and would do anything for others. She was the rock behind everything, never one for the limelight but always there to lean on”, with Leigh Bosch from the Helensville & District Historical Society adding “she was a pillar, and not someone you ever said “no” to.”
Rhonda is survived by her husband Thomas, daughters Gaylene, Robyn and Lynda, sons-in-law Phillip, Rory and Allistair and grandchildren, Dylan, Connaugh, Jonathan, Kyle, Morgan, Michael, Grace and Sammie.
By Helen Martin