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Lily Webber 1910-2003

Posted by SCe Comments Off on Lily Webber 1910-2003

Lily Webber 1910-26 June 2003


Lily Webber, Don Wright and Doris Pearce at the surf club, 2001

One of Piha’s oldest personalities died on 26 June and a large crowd of Piha devotees gathered at her funeral to celebrate a long and joyful life. Lily Webber was diminutive but radiated enjoyment of life. She greatly loved Piha and in her latter years could spend a whole day watching the ever-changing ocean from the window of the Webber house on the beachfront. Her husband Claude, Piha surf club president and chairman 1955-56, began a family tradition of association with the club. Three generations of Webbers have served in the Piha surf club and right to the end Lily loved a meal at the club where, with her family around her, she could see old friends and familiar faces.

Lily was born in Glasgow and came to New Zealand with her family when she was 15. The family was unsure about settling here and went back to Scotland, Lily finding a position as a dressmaker in London. After a year, the family came back for good and it wasn’t too long before Lily met her husband-to-be when she went to dances at The Orange Ballroom in Newton with her sister Lena. Claude Webber played the trumpet in the Snappy Six band at the hall, and the sight of Lily dancing with another man is said to have caused Claude to blow on his trumpet especially loud, from agitation.

But Claude won his girl and the couple began a long and happy marriage. Brian was the first child, born in 1940, followed by Graeme, Francis and Angela, all inheriting Lily’s striking auburn hair. Claude had been an apprentice jeweller to his father ” when the apprenticeship was finished he opened his own shop in Ponsonby, then moved to Queen Street where he and his oldest son did business for many years. Claude’s profession explains the to-die-for diamonds and other jewels that Lily wore even at relatively casual events. Lily was always immaculately groomed and stylish.

Piha reminded Claude Webber of his Cornish birthplace and the family first camped, then rented baches. Around 1950, the family bought a house built by Gwyn Denning on a property adjoining the surf club. Claude’s key role in the club was fund-raising, and he gave silver cups to the club as prizes. In those years, Lily brought up her family and was hostess when Claude showed films he had shot at cinema nights and outdoor movies. Lily was lively and outgoing and Piha provided plenty of opportunities for socialising. The journey from the Webber house to the water’s edge could take Lily and her good friend and neighbour Dorothy Lamont considerable time as they stopped to chat to friends on the way. Lily had a great love of the sea and continued to swim till late in her life.

Claude died in 1991, but Lily continued to live in the Mt Eden home the family had moved to in 1940, in recent years with a caregiver. A devout Catholic she also enjoyed church and visits from the priest. Virtually every weekend she would come to Piha where she would stay with one or other of her children. There she had all her children around her – there are nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Son Brian says there was also a creative side to Lily. She loved reading, composed poems and kept a vivid diary of events in her life. She retained her Scottish accent all her life and at her funeral Larry Rountree told of Lily singing ˜Danny Boy’ over the entire Northern Lifeguard radio network. She loved everything about Piha and always reminded her children how lucky they were to be able to go there. She will be sadly missed.

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