Road signs honour Tāmaki locals

13 FEB, 2020 | Tāmaki News

Many of the new streets in Tāmaki are being named after those who made huge contributions to the area. Tāmaki Regeneration is recognising those local legends by giving their families replica street signs. Scott Morgan spoke to some of the families about the thrill of having their loved ones acknowledged.

Ev Perry spent most of his 40-year teaching career at Tāmaki College. So, it’s no surprise that three different people nominated the school’s former principal to have a new street in Glen Innes named after him.“Ev would be so proud and also feel he’s not worthy of it but thrilled to know that people thought so highly of him,” his widow Brenda Perry says. “He wouldn’t have expected anything like having a street named after him for just doing his job, which was helping the kids.” Ev, who died in 2015, taught at the school between 1958-59, then again from 1963-67 and was appointed deputy principal in 1970, before becoming principal in 1971. There was something special about Tāmaki that just kept drawing Ev back to the area, says Brenda, who also taught at the school near the end of her career. “Out of his 40 years teaching, he did 28 years at Tāmaki. The people kept bringing him back to Tāmaki. They welcomed us and the family. “There was a warm feeling about the place, and he cultivated it. Everyone worked together and got on with it.” 

The father-of-four coached the First XV before he became principal, and was also very involved in cultural performances, says Brenda. 
“He loved helping the children who didn’t have the same advantages that we had. He could command an audience and was very good with words. When he walked into a classroom, the children stopped talking.” After Ev retired, he stayed involved with school, at one stage reconnecting through his granddaughter-in-law Tenille, who started teaching at Tāmaki. “Soana, the current principal, used to take Ev to rugby games and he’d give pep talks to the first XV. “Even when Ev retired, they would invite us to senior prizegiving. He went to prizegivings until he wasn’t well enough to go. When the First XV beat schools like Kings or Auckland Grammar, that was huge for him.” In 2005, the Ev Perry classroom block was unveiled. “He was thrilled about that too,” Brenda says. “He was really proud of the students and their successes.” Living in Pakuranga, Ev was very much connected to the Tāmaki community, often going shopping with Brenda in Panmure town centre. “People were quite happy if we were in the street to come up and talk to us. “Even after Ev died, one boy in particular from school would come up to me and tell me about his family.” As for what to do with the Ev Perry Way sign, Brenda says it will sit proudly on her apartment windowsill, which overlooks a bowling green. “All the players will be able to read it! I don’t know anyone else who has one.”

The decision to name a Glen Innes street after Rita Meredith fulfilled a prediction she made many years ago.
The mother-of-eight died in 1992 but told her husband John Meredith she would “always be around”. Seeing the Rita Meredith Road sign go up in the Fenchurch development on June 28 - Rita’s birthday – saw that prediction come true for John and his eight children.

“For years, she’s going to be there. My eyes were running when the sign went up and it wasn’t raining,” John says.
“We were wondering how it happened that they put the sign up on her birthday.” And the family can visit Rita Meredith Road whenever they like, because it’s “just across the street” from the family home. “It’s really awesome to see my
mum’s legacy up there,” Rita’s son Eugene says. “Where mum’s sign is, that’s where Emily Smith, who also has a street named after her, used to live. It’s like she’s pointing at one of her friends.”
As for the replica sign, he plans on putting it on the wall for all the family to see when they visit. Rita, who was of Samoan, Scottish and French descent, migrated to New Zealand with her parents and 12 siblings in the 1950s, moving into a state house on Taniwha St in 1963. She was an active member of the Glen Innes Catholic community, including serving on the St Pius X School Parent Teacher Association and coaching netball teams at the school for many years.
Rita also worked locally, first at Amco Jeans and then Hutchwilco. Maria Meredith wrote the nomination putting forward her mother-in-law to have a street named after her. She found out about the opportunity through her membership of Tāmaki Regeneration’s Community Liaison Committee.
“For us, it was a good opportunity to be part of history and leave a legacy.”

Emily Taripo Smith had five children of her own and supported many more youngsters who needed assistance. That desire to help other people is one of the many reasons her family thought Emily, who died in 2006, was worthy of having a new street in Glen Innes named after her. “She was deserving of it,” daughter Tracey Smith says. “She used to run Glen Brae Community House on Leybourne Circle. There she taught kids with disabilities to read.” Emily ran fundraising events like housie to keep the community house running and initiated its first kohanga reo classes. “She used to take in a lot of kids that had nowhere to go, just for a few hours,” Tracey says. “They could go and be safe, get something to eat or even have a bit of counselling. The doors were always open.” She was also involved in the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Ruapotaka Marae, Ōrākei Marae and ran tuck shop at Mt Wellington Rugby League club. Later Emily became a probation officer in Panmure – an opportunity which came about from her work in the community.

“She was just everywhere, helping everybody,” Tracey says. “She would be really honoured and blessed to have a street named after her.” And her family has special plans for the Emily Smith Road replica sign. “We took her ashes back to
Raratonga after she died, so we might take the sign over as well and put it up. “It would be taking a bit of GI to Raro.”

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