Mary once danced with Ernest Rutherford

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2013
Mary Kurta stand
Mary Kurta

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One of Taranaki's oldest citizens Mary Kurta, 105, has died.

Mary Dominica Kurta was born in New Plymouth on January 12, 1908, in the same year Ernest Rutherford received a Nobel Prize for splitting the atom.

At the first dance she attended after leaving school Miss Kurta danced with the famous scientist.

"I couldn't dance," Miss Kurta told the Daily News on her 100th birthday. "I was trampling all over his toes and his shoes. He swished me round until I felt quite sick. They had to take me outside to have a sit down on a box outside."

Miss Kurta was engaged once, niece Christine Mora said, but her fiance was killed in World War II.

Mrs Mora's mother Mavis died when she was 10 so Miss Kurta brought her up.

"She was a very pleasant, generous person."

Miss Kurta was a school teacher at Taranaki schools including Mimi School, and at schools in Hamilton East and Wanganui.

She was infant mistress at West End school from 1951 to 1958, but eventually gave up the career she loved and moved in with her elderly parents to look after them, Mrs Mora said.

Miss Kurta was the eldest of seven children and was very close to her 14 nieces and nephews and their families.

Mrs Mora said she didn't know the secret to her aunt's long life, but she always had good health and lived in her own home until she was 97.

"She was a Roman Catholic and her religion played an important part in her life."

Last year on her 104th birthday when Miss Kurta was asked the same question - what the secret to her long life was, she said: "I just arrived here I guess."

Mary Kurta died at Rhapsody Lifecare on Friday, November 22.

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