9 September 1928 -23 November 2018
It was a fitting tribute that the funeral service of Warkworth Town Hall campaigner Beverley Simmons was held in the hall on November 30.
Both the funeral celebrant Dave Parker and her nephew Tony Simmons highlighted Beverley’s committed involvement to saving and restoring Warkworth’s heritage.
Mr Parker spoke of her involvement in the release of the town’s first heritage brochure, her work at the Warkworth and Districts Museum, and support of the Jane Gifford restoration.
However, it was Mr Simmons and Warkworth Town Hall Restoration Trust chair Cunitia Wilkinson who spoke of her biggest contribution in re-establishing the town hall.
“Beverley applied for the building to be considered for a category listing with the Historic Places Trust and then was absolutely amazed when the building was listed as Category 1,” Mr Simmons said.
Mrs Wilkinson said Beverley was the reason she had become involved with the restoration project and she praised Beverley’s work, even after she moved to the Amberlea Rest Home with Parkinson’s.
“She not only donated to the project, but would also phone us with advice because she knew the hall so well,” Mrs Wilkinson said.
Mr Simmons said his aunt’s work reflected not only her passion for heritage, but also for the area.
Beverley and her husband Ron bought Riverina, now a stately house on the corner of Hepburn Creek and Wilson Roads, as a holiday do-up in 1969. It was in a derelict condition then and they made their first inspection of the house by climbing through a window.
In the 1970s, they bought an adjoining four hectares to return the property to its original size and this later became Beverley’s farm with a wool shed built on it.
Beverley moved permanently to Riverina in 1987 following Ron’s death.
Her cousin Tony Cook described her as a true farmer whose friends were the animals.
“I remember one story where she was having a whisky and a wine with her friends on the veranda and suddenly saw an ewe in distress in the paddock,” he said.
“She threw on her gumboots while still wearing pearls and all, and next minute she was holding up a new born lamb!”
The house itself was described as always being full of various publications, harking back to her love of music, arts and journalism.
In the 1950s Beverley wrote for a number of newspapers, including the New Zealand Herald, and her research papers on the arts are in many archives across the country, including at the University of Auckland and the National Library of New Zealand.
As a result, she was a formidable advocate for the causes she believed in.
Tony Simmons described her presentations to fight bureaucracy at Auckland Council meetings as the “stuff of legend”.
Despite coming from Auckland herself, Tony recalled her later saying she deeply opposed the growth in the area and thought some big gates should be put up to stop Aucklanders moving north.
“When I politely suggested that she had also been one of ‘those Aucklanders’ she quietly dismissed me with ‘it only applies AB (after Beverley).”
Her other loves in life were her cat and a glass of whisky, which she would never turn down.