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No tumbleweeds on Ineke’s watch

July 23, 2019 July2019 No Comments

It’s stating the obvious to say that Martinborough is a very different town now from the one Ineke Pyl first visited in 1972.   What may not be so obvious is how many of the positive changes that have created today’s thriving village owe a debt to Ineke’s vision, energy and drive.

Her first impression of Martinborough, on a weekend visit with her friend Robyn Gunn, wasn’t great –  “All that’s missing is the tumble weed”.  In one of those statements that can come back to haunt you, she declared, “This is the last place on earth I would want to live.”

However fate, in the form of David’s sister Christine, was about to intervene. Ineke was her junior teacher at Green Meadows kindergarten and Christine arranged a blind date with David at a Ball in Napier.   You don’t need to be Einstein to work out what happened next.  Lots of to-ing and fro-ing between Martinborough and Napier and eventually a wedding.  Ineke became Head Teacher at Featherston kindergarten and Martinborough became her home and the canvas on which she worked her magic.

It all began with Ineke going in to bat over the telephone book.  “Why?” she asked, were Martinborough numbers listed as Featherston.  NZ Post proved no match for Ineke ‘s powers of persuasion and ever since the book has been published with a general South Wairarapa section instead.

As the wine industry began to flourish so did the need for accommodation for visitors but choices were very limited. The Martinborough Hotel was definitely not the luxury establishment we have today.  Desperate for somewhere to host an important overseas wine writer, Phil Pattie at Ata Rangi asked Ineke if he could stay at their house.

The stay was a great success and Ineke quickly recognised the growing demand and saw how she could help. First she set up a room in the main house, creating Martinborough’s first B&B.   She went on to convert a disused shed out the back (doing a lot of the development herself) and then expanded the business into a vacant house nearby.  “There could be up to 14 people for breakfast and I played Manuel, waiting on the tables.” joked David.

Ineke realised there was no point in attracting visitors to Martinborough unless there were things to do when they arrived.  A keen walker herself, she hit on the idea of developing paths to give city visitors the opportunity to walk through vineyards and over farmland.  That’s how The Palliser, River and Raupaki Walks were created (the last of these in conjunction with John and Liz Hancock).

Perhaps you can see a pattern emerging?    She never accepted the status quo if she felt it wasn’t right.  Of course it wasn’t always plain sailing.  Strange as it may seem now, her campaign for Martinborough to have it’s own Information Centre, wasn’t universally supported. Today it would be unthinkable to be without it.

With more and more new people coming to live in Martinbrough Ineke wanted to ensure they and existing residents had a way to get to know each other.   That’s how First Friday Drinks was born – an informal monthly event open to everyone. It’s still going strong.  She would also spontaneously approach new people and find ways to include them in community activities.   She set up several book groups over the years too, as another way to bring people together.

Since its early days Martinborough has had its own newspaper but publication has waxed and waned. Inkeke always loved writing so when The Star was revived in 2007 she became a regular contributor.  She only gave up when she became too ill.

Where was the family business in all this?  Ineke always joked she had her youngest child, Arnaud, so she didn’t have to work in the shop.   But she was keenly interested in the business and took accountancy papers through Massey to get a better understanding.  “ She was probably more on top of the tax side than I was.” Dave says.  She also developed the Health and Safety Plan when the new legislation came in but the minute it was signed off announced “I am not working here any more.”  She was happier being a stay-at-home mum and working on her community-oriented projects.

Ineke had a very special way of going about these activities.   She made sure they were underway and thriving then stepped away.  The power of this is that their ongoing success never remained dependent on her personally.   She didn’t seek credit for her achievements either.  “She had no ego about these things”, says a close friend.

It helped to have a supportive husband – although on some occasions he found it better to do this from a safe distance!  Her Dutch directness, sometimes interpreted as lack of tact compared with Kiwis’ rather more cautious approach, could ruffle feathers but equally often achieved great results.  If she knew she had offended anyone she always tried to make it up.

Her loyalty as a friend was legendary and she practised random acts of kindness for many others in Martinborough.  David said he was amazed to discover the people she had touched during her life and had been humbled by the love and support offered to him and the family as a consequence.

It is no surprise that Ineke approached her illness as she approached life in general and of course she kept her doctors on their toes.  Diagnosed at age 50, she confounded medical predictions by living many years longer than her original diagnosis of 3 years maximum.  She set goals – to be around for the arrival of grandchildren, to reach milestone birthdays, to travel, and to achieve an inspiring range of physical challenges.  In her final year she refused further treatment and insisted that they offer the drugs to people who might not otherwise receive them.

The forces that created the woman she became started early. Her mother and father arrived in the wave of Dutch people immigrating to NZ after WWII and they married soon after.  Family dynamics meant that as a young child Ineke carried an unusual amount of responsibility and had to grow up very quickly. Her independent spirit saw her leave her home in Whanganui to start kindergarten training in Wellington just before she turned 17.  However, she continued to support her family, especially her mother, throughout her life.

There is now a huge Ineke-shaped hole in the lives of her family and friends but her accomplishments remain an enduring memorial.   We are all beneficiaries of Ineke’s legacy.

The hundreds who came to pay their respects at her memorial (funeral?) service and the tributes paid there were a touching demonstration of people’s love and esteem for her.  There was plenty of laughter as well as tears.  Ever thoughtful, Ineke wanted to be make sure nobody left that day feeling sad so Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of was the final song, with everyone joining in.  It was the final message she wanted to leave – and one so typical of her spirit and the way she lived her life.

There were no tumbleweeds on Ineke’s watch and her contribution to our community means that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

Chris Cassels

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Highlight: She’d see a need, look for a solution and then do whatever was necessary to make that happen.

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