Pioneer hailed

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The matriarch of a prominent local family is being hailed for her compassion, sense of humour and pioneering role as a businesswoman.

Betty Brown died last Saturday at her central Queenstown home, aged 89.

She’s survived by her husband of 61 years, Doug Brown, and sons Nigel, Derek, Maurice and Julian.

Raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland, her family emigrated to Dunedin when she was young.

Working as a nurse there, she met Invercargill-based Doug when they were separately holidaying in Queenstown.

Nigel: “Doug was in the Mountaineer [pub] and he was climbing out the window as Betty was driving past with some friends in a convertible.

“Doug must have known one of them and jumped in the back with Betty.”

After marrying in Dunedin they lived in Invercargill, but in 1965 Doug built a holiday home on Queenstown’s Hallenstein Street.

They shifted to their current family home, which they extended, in the early ’70s.

Doug eventually returned to his former real estate career while Betty opened an antiques and second-hand shop in Shotover St, moving premises a few times.

She later ran a woollen fashion shop at the top of The Mall, and was part of a lobby group that successfully pushed for seven-day trading.

When Doug redeveloped his premises, Betty ran the resort’s first holiday apartment rentals upstairs.

She helped Nigel and Derek when they set up Browns Ski Shop, and at home was “almost like the ‘Camp Mum”‘, Nigel says, when she hosted their ski racing mates.

In 1996, Betty became vice-chair of the new Wakatipu Victim Support.

“A big-hearted lady, she’d do anything for anyone”, current chair Faye Robertson says, “and she had the most wicked sense of humour.”

Long-time local friend Sue Dennis says she loved visiting Betty “because she was such a great storyteller – whether that’s the Irish coming out, I’m not sure”.

“And just as I was leaving, she would always ask me if I knew anybody who needed a hand, who was struggling.”

She was especially generous at Christmas, Dennis says.

“She would ask the Salvation Army to give her the name of a family that would not be having a Christmas and Betty would ensure that they did – anonymously.”

Her funeral will be held today at Queenstown’s St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, on Stanley St, at 1pm.

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