Broadcaster, teacher: Marama's transcendent popularity

Marama Martin was one of the first Maori broadcasters.

Marama Martin was one of the first Maori broadcasters.

Marama Martin's popularity knew no bounds.

Before the broadcaster rose to fame as the television's "favourite aunty" in the 70s, she was the children's favourite teacher at an intermediate school in New Plymouth.

"She was like your big sister, or your favourite aunty," former colleague Derek Fox said.

"She was a very, very pleasant woman."

READ MORE: Broadcaster Marama Martin dies

Martin, formerly Marama Koea, died last Monday at a care centre in Stoke, Nelson. She was 87. Since her passing tributes have surged in remembrance of the woman who was the first person seen on colour television in New Zealand.

It was 1973 and she wore a mauve dress, which she reportedly made herself.

Fox, a Maori journalist, said unbeknown to Martin at the time she was at the centre of a number of now historical moments in New Zealand broadcast.

"One wouldn't think so at the time but when you look back you see they were significant moments," said Fox, who worked with Martin at New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) for about seven years.

She was one of the first Maori broadcasters to become a regular on screen and was the last person to appear on the country's sole television channel, NZBC, before it was split into two competing channels in 1975.

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Martin started with NZBC in the early 60s where she worked in radio before becoming a fixture on television, announcing programmes and reading the weather.

Fox worked in news and closer with Martin's husband, Bert Martin, who she married in 1968. Bert was a studio director in the news department while Martin worked in continuity.

"Bert was a very cultured guy, and so was she," he said.

Before the launch of her career in media, Martin, born and raised in New Plymouth and of Te Atiawa descent, trained as a teacher in Auckland.

Among the many schools she taught at she was a favourite with the children at New Plymouth's Devon Intermediate School. 

Fellow teacher Marion Schouten, Crofskey at the time, said the kids were drawn to her lovable personality.

"I had a young cousin who came to stay and he wouldn't go to bed because Marama had come to dinner," she said.

"He said 'It's too much fun, I want to be with Marama, please'."

Schouten looked up to Martin, who was about seven years her senior. She considered her a mentor in teaching and would often ask for guidance in her role.

"Marama was one of the greats," she said.

While teaching, Martin worked part-time at New Plymouth radio station, 2XP. Schouten said the school's staff would often tune in to hear their colleague on air.

"We thought it was a great hoot."

Martin returned to teaching following her retirement from broadcasting.

In 1988 she and Bert moved to Australia where they lived on the Gold Coast for ten years. They returned to New Zealand to retire in Nelson, Bert's hometown. 

Sister-in-law Sabina Hunt said life then became quiet for the pair. Bert now suffered dementia and Martin's health had declined in recent years.

Her brother and Martin were married 49 years this month and had a lot in common, Hunt said.

Together they earned their degrees, shared a love for music and cooking and enjoyed a "huge" social life while they were in broadcast in Wellington.

"They had a very, very close relationship," she said.

"He was there at the very end, holding her hand."

Martin is survived by Bert, and her daughter Rata Hannemann and grandchildren in the United States.

 - Stuff

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