‘Positivity’ and ‘caring’ are words that perfectly sum up Queenstown’s oldest resident, Clarice May, who died early this month, aged 101.
Clarice retired to Queenstown with her late husband, Bill, in the early ’80s after they left the family farm near Winton where they also raised five children.
At 41, Clarice was diagnosed with bowel cancer, leaving her with a colostomy bag for the rest of her life.
From then on, her family say, she became ‘‘a passionate believer in the strength of positivity’’, passing that on to hundreds of patients she
visited and sat with while they underwent surgery, then afterwards at their homes while they convalesced.
She’d bake shortbread and muffins for hospital patients, delivering them to hospitals in Invercargill then, later, Queenstown, in her trusty
cane basket — her baking, often even before dawn, earned her the nickname, ‘the muffin lady’.
She’d also write letters of encouragement to bowel cancer survivors and the like.
For her services to patients, Clarice received a Queen’s Service Medal in 1980.
In ’92, she and Bill were also awarded prestigious Paul Harris Fellowships by Queenstown’s Rotary club, an honour rarely bestowed on couples.
Her family say she was a glass-half-full type, took pretty much everything in her stride and never held a grudge.
‘‘When she was a bit angry, the eyes would flash and the crooked index finger would point your way, we knew it was then time to move.
‘‘This was then followed by a sniff, and the nose would rise skyward.’’
Former mayor Jim Boult and his wife, Karen, lived next to Clarice and Bill at Lake Hayes after moving to Queenstown in ’82, and found her ‘‘the kindest, nicest’’ neighbour.
Jim: ‘‘I went to see her when she was maybe 95, I said, ‘what are you doing, Clarice?’
‘‘She said, ‘I’m making meals for old people’.’’
Karen recalls once making a quiche and Clarice taking her aside: ‘‘Just a word of advice, if you want to keep your man, cook him real food.’’
‘‘I remember arriving at the house and there was this woman in the garden with a strapless sundress singing Life Begins at 60 — I think she just kept changing this as she got older.’’
Along with Bill, Clarice is survived by Liz, Mary-Jane (Mouse), Sally and Tommy, as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren and best mate and true friend, Vicki Robinson.