Farewell to a helper

16:00, Nov 21 2013
VILLAGE LIBRARY: June could be found teaching spinning and knitting at the tiny Albany library.

June Chitty (nee Phillips), 87, lived in the area for more than 50 years and served on just about every committee going, friend Peg Welford says.

Mrs Chitty, who died on Sunday at Rosedale Village, could be found every Thursday at the tiny one-room Albany War Memorial Library looking after her beloved books for the last 25 years.

A spinning, knitting and handcraft group started up there when things were a bit slow and half a dozen or more crafters often joined her there.

JUNE CHITTY: From country village to urban enclave, Albany was her passion.

The building seems absurdly small, set as it is a stone's throw from the North Harbour Stadium, Westfield Shopping Mall and Massey University's Albany campus.

But Albany was an idyllic country village surrounded by rolling farm land and orchards when Mrs Chitty arrived from England with husband Frank in the 1950s. A general store, post office, builder and garage serviced the community.

There were no motorways so getting to Auckland city meant a 16 kilometre drive to the Birkenhead wharf for a ferry trip across the Waitemata Harbour.


The road was partly concreted during World War II to handle heavy vehicles going to Defence Force camps on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and further north at Warkworth and Whangarei.

June's naval husband was at sea for weeks on end so she often found herself alone raising their three children Richard, Chris, and Pauline. The people in the village and the library were an important part of her social life.

On Sundays the village almost broke into a trot as people turned up for church. June, like many others, made good use of the library opening in the morning to handle the "rush".

Changes followed the Auckland Harbour Bridge opening in 1959. The village grew to include a bakery, a hardware store and barber.

Strawberry gardens sprang up and June helped with picking, although she was a trained hairdresser.

Getting involved came naturally.

June joined the Country Women's Institute in 1964 and was on the committee for many years, including a stint as president and secretary. She became involved in garden entertainment and craft groups, the Albany Hall committee and was officer in charge of the library.

Twenty years ago the place really ramped up with the arrival of Massey University, Mrs Welford says. The Chittys were still heavily involved as the village became absorbed into the urban areas.

Mr Chitty died in 2001.

"June and Frank were involved in the community in a very grass roots level and often appeared in the paper," former North Harbour News editor Matthew Gray recalls.

"She sewed together a Santa suit that Frank wore each year around the village when he gave lollies to the kids.

"They did this for no financial reward - community spirit was just part of their combined DNA."

A service for Mrs Chitty was held at The Holy Cross Church at Albany on Friday. Mrs Chitty would have approved that flowers came from home gardens in the area she knew and loved so well.

She is survived by her children Richard, Chris, and Pauline, and grandchildren Barnaby, Robbie, and James.

North Harbour News