Rugby club stalwart and washerwoman mourned

22:18, Aug 13 2014
timaru waimate rugby stella chamberlain
LONG SERVICE: Stella Chamberlain with a clothesline laden with Waimate rugby jerseys.

The first woman to be made a life member of the Waimate Rugby Club has died, aged 93.

Stella Uriel Chamberlain was the pivotal member of a well-known Waimate family with decades of involvement in rugby in Waimate and further afield.

Stella and her late husband Cyril raised 13 children - seven sons and six daughters - over 17 years, and from their mother's example, the children soon learned the hard work ethic.

"My mother's day started at 6am with a cooked breakfast for dad. Then all of us children for breakfast, and school lunches made," daughter Judy recalled.

"We never went to school hungry as mum always made sure we had something to eat, even if it meant she had nothing, and she was never in bed before midnight."

The children helped with Saturday wash day, when Stella boiled the copper and got out the scrubbing board, filling six straight clotheslines.


"Mum never went anywhere, always too busy looking after us kids, most of the time singlehanded, as most men those days never did anything to help. We all had our jobs to do, dishes, wood, garden, milking cows by hand, morning and night."

Stella suffered accidents and endured tragedy. In 1964, travelling home from Otematata with son Billy and daughter Judy and Judy's daughter Dianne, the car hit a petrol tanker. Billy and Dianne were killed, and, hospitalised with extensive injuries, Stella and Judy were unable to attend their own children's funeral.

In 1991 a car hit Stella on a pedestrian crossing. With multiple broken bones, she had a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit at Timaru Hospital.

Stella nurtured her children into strong and active sport participants, competing in netball and rugby, and a tug-of-war team made up of family members won its grade at the South Island championships.

Rugby, however, was her first love. From her father's and husband's coaching and playing days, she encouraged her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, from rugby days at St Patrick's School, through the grades to Waimate senior, South Canterbury, NPC and Super 14.

Stella washed the Waimate senior side's jerseys for 35 years. She never using a washing machine. Instead, they were soaked in the bath, washed by hand and then put through the wringer. In 2009 she received life membership for her service to the club.

Following 52 years of marriage, Stella's husband Cyril died. From Maytown, the family shifted into Manse St, and the final transfer for their mother was to a flat on Cameron St, across the road from St Patrick's Basilica.

Until a painful fracture hospitalised her in Timaru, Stella walked over for mass each Sunday, in later years on the arm of her daughter Judy.

The Timaru Herald