By Helen Martin
Around 50 people gathered at the Helensville Memorial Hall on a Saturday in
September to share in celebrating the 90th birthday of local identity Gabrielle Hildreth.
Organised by Helensville and District Historical Society Committee members Rhonda Grace, Julie Colville and Isla Willis, the sumptuously catered gathering included many family members and friends. Some were representatives of groups that Gabrielle, who came to Helensville in 1956, has taken part in over the years, including the Helensville Floral Art Club and Ladies Who Lunch.
Gabrielle was warmly acknowledged as a founder of Helensville Playcentre, an organisation that is still going strong. She has also contributed many hours to the Helensville and District Historical Society, of which she remains a valued patron.
Julie Colville told guests how, as a member of the International Toastmistress Club (now known as Kaipara Communicators), Gabrielle was a great debater. “We always won,” Julie explained, “because no-one knows better than Gay and me.”
Gabrielle’s nieces told guests how she has been a wonderful, positive influence in their
lives as a second mother and a straight-shooting, inspirational woman with a modern outlook, unafraid to use a Led Zeppelin song in one of her Auckland University English lectures when she felt inclined.
In reply Gabrielle, whose husband Peter had very recently passed away, expressed regret that she “couldn’t talk for long”, before giving a witty, heart-warming speech, ending with the wisdom that a good life includes solid friends and the drive to “just get on and deal with things.”