Life Story: June Woods' lifetime of adventure

Barbara June Woods, known as June, was a women's advocate, councillor and mother-of-six. She died on March 22, 2017.

Barbara June Woods, known as June, was a women's advocate, councillor and mother-of-six. She died on March 22, 2017.

OBITUARY: Barbara June Woods sheltered under the stairs as enemy bombs relentlessly rained down around her.

Growing up in England during World War II, young June would hide with her grandmother – who raised her after her mother died in childbirth – as shrapnel littered the street and blasts threatened their home.

Decades later as the ground shook under Christchurch, memories of the raids flooded back.

The mother-of-six had escaped war-torn Liverpool on a whim. She saw a poster with pictures of palm trees and the promise of a new life in a "Pacific paradise", persuaded her carpenter husband to throw caution to the wind, and bundled up their belongings.

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The young family set sail for Lyttelton. When the ship docked on November 19, 1954, June knew it would not be an easy road, but vowed to trudge ahead.

The move had been her idea, she had done the calculations and she was determined to prove it would work to her reluctant husband, Arthur.

June immediately set to work.

While Arthur worked in Southland, she brought a house, joined the local Plunket group and threw herself into the community. Her time was filled with varied volunteer work, and she quickly became an advocate for women, children and those in need.

June, along with others, started the Riccarton Meals on Wheels service run by the Inter-Church Community Care Society, and was a member of the trust board of the Petersgate Counselling Centre.

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Her drive and determination pushed her to complete a Diploma in Liberal Studies at the University of Canterbury, and landed her with an invitation to the Queen's Christchurch garden party.

After several happy years, the first bump in the road for the growing family was mountainous. In her early 40s, June's happy spirit and vibrant personality took a serious knock. She experienced mood changes and seizures, and was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was removed in a risky operation in Dunedin, marking a turning point in her life.

June recovered quickly, threw herself back into community work and dedicated herself more than ever to her work.

From 1990, June stepped up as a delegate to the Christchurch branch of the National Council of Women and Canterbury Age Concern, where she was recognised with one of 500 medals as part of the centennial of women's suffrage in 1993.

After 21 years of living and volunteering in Riccarton, she became the first female Riccarton Borough Councillor, a position she held with great honour and felt a privilege to fill.

A pioneer in the male-dominated field, June challenged decades old traditions and routines in the council chambers, which led her to serve as a Justice of the Peace and a member of the District Court Panel until she retired in 2010. 

She later became a trustee of the Riccarton War Memorial Library Trust and spent hours pouring over books with Arthur.

After six decades in New Zealand, the women's advocate and local councillor stamped an immeasurable mark on the city. She died on March 22, aged 87.

Those close to her said June "regretted little and showed personal courage throughout her varied and interesting life". Her daughter-in-law, Robyn Nuthall, said she was a "lifelong Anglican and devoted mother and wife".

June has been recognised as a life member of the Association of Anglican Women and is survived by five sons and one daughter, 14 grandchildren and five great-grand children.

Her legacy would live on through a series of short stories based on her, and a record of her early life to be displayed in the 1990 Women's History Project, one of many stored in the National Archive.

 - Stuff

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