Friday, 30 October 2020


Finally an opportunity to pay tribute to Barbara Lee

Mercury Bay’s Lee family can finally pay tribute to Barbara - their wife, mother, grandmother and heart of their family - with a proper send off on Saturday, 10 October. Barbara June Lee (nee Dutton) passed away unexpectedly on the 22 March, just before the first coronavirus lockdown, which meant that the family were unable to honour her with a gathering until this coming weekend.

Barbara and her husband, Bill’s extended family alone would comprise at least 50 attendees even before the vast community of friends that the couple have developed during their 64 years together are considered. This anticipated turnout was simply too large to comply with COVID-19 restrictions until just recently. Barbara’s send off on Saturday will take place a month after what would have been her 77th birthday. The service will be held at St Andrew’s by the Sea Community Church at 10:30am. All are welcome.

Barbara Lee was a dynamo, always keen to learn and continuously adopting new skills. She was talented and self-taught in all sorts of creative endeavours, which she shared freely with her family and her community. She gave a huge amount to everyone around her, including the Kaimarama Garden Club, the Glee Club (Golden Girls), the Mercury Bay Lionesses and the the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust. She was a staunch supporter of the community activities Bill was involved in and the many pursuits her four children adopted.

Barbara deeply appreciated the value of family and absolutely loved children. She also adored entertaining, providing her wide network of friends with great hospitality.

Raised in Hamilton in a close but widely extended family, Barbara spent a lot of her teenage years babysitting and tending to her younger cousins. Her family had a love for camping and during the summer would travel from Hamilton to various parts of the Coromandel to set up a temporary home with their impressive set of camping equipment.

In 1956, Barbara’s family stayed at Mulberries Campground in Lee Street, Whitianga. The campground belonged to Bill’s parents, Amy and Fredrick Lee. It was then that 13-year old Barbara met 15-year old Bill when she was looking for her family cat and spotted Bill mowing the lawns.    Although Bill was off to Army Cadet camp very soon, they struck up a relationship and began exchanging letters which went on for years. Bill still has all the letters.

Barbara was determined that her family return to Mulberries Campground again the next summer and was instrumental in the family becoming regulars at the campground. One day, Bill worked up the nerve to ask Barbara for a walk to the beach, but felt compelled to ask her father for permission. Her father allowed the “date” as long as Barbara’s sister, Julie, accompanied the couple. Coming back from the beach past the old hospital, Bill took Barbara’s hand and Julie ran straight home to tell their parents.    

When Barbara was 18 and engaged to Bill, she moved to Whitianga and boarded with Bill’s parents. Bill said that Barbara was made to feel incredibly welcome in the area, joining in with all his activities, including with the Fire Brigade and the Aero Club.

The couple loved to dance, frequenting the many dances and balls of the time. Bill remembers it as an incredibly social time, full of dancing, beach bonfires and good fun.

They married in November 1962 in Hamilton. Barbara, a talented sewer, created her own wedding dress. In fact, she had been recruited out of high school to sew wedding dresses in Hamilton for Maree de Maru (now Vinka Designs).  

In 1965, the couple gave birth to their first child, Tony, and moved out to the family farm at Kaimarama. In a small space of time the young couple moved from town with a newborn, took on a new house, six paddocks and a rustic existence a mile away from the main road, a time Bill says was definitely “tricky.” They went on to have two more boys, Jason and Scott, and a daughter, Sarah. These years were a blur with all the activities associated with active children. But Barbara took to farming naturally and would milk cows and rear calves in addition to her other endeavours.

Barbara enjoyed all sorts of creative pursuits, including gardening, preserving, baking, crafting and floral arranging. She loved art and excelled in music. A devoted parent, she was constantly reading about child psychology and later passed these skills on to her own children in dealing with their offspring. In their later years, Barbara and Bill relished their roles as grandparents and travelled all over to babysit for their kids and spend time with their grandchildren.

Barbara also had a knack for nursing and although she was dissuaded from training as a nurse by her mother, she had a keen attraction to the profession and later became a healthcare assistant at Whitianga Continuing Care, where she worked for more than 12 years. She took any course she could and learned continuously, becoming a very skilled and knowledgeable health carer. She had a particular passion for dealing with elderly patients, providing them comfort and dignity, and going out of her way to provide them with kindnesses like violets from the garden and baking d. In the flood of condolences since her passing, Barbara’s care for the elderly has been mentioned multiple times. 
It is hard to compress the life of a woman like Barbara Lee into a limited number of words, but daughter, Sarah, sums it up well when she says that Barbara, “Had a thirst for knowledge and shared this, and her time and love, generously with so many.”

Pictured: Barbara Lee, the heart of Mercury Bay’s well-known Lee family, passed away on 22 March this year, just before the first coronavirus lockdown.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.