Feilding fundraiser remembered for dedication and kindness

Daphne Sowerby was the type of humble, kind and dedicated person who holds a community together.

She worked hard to make life better for her family and everyone around her and devoted the last 26 years of her life to raising more than $100,000 for Palmerston North’s Arohanui Hospice.

Daphne worked almost fulltime creating knitwear, craft work, jams and baking to sell at an annual fundraising stall at her home and “Daphne’s Stall” became legendary in Feilding.

She died peacefully at the Nelson Residential Care Centre in Feilding on December 22, aged 88, after a long and fulfilling life, surrounded by family.

Daughter Aileen Rutherford said it was touching to see how many people from the community and the hospice joined the family at her mother’s memorial service.

Daphne would have enjoyed the gathering, she said.

“She made so many friendships through [her community work]… and she always loved having people around.”

Murray Sowerby said his mother, and his father Albert, both grew up on rural properties near Waituna West – and both shared a sense of humility and hospitality.

“Mum and Dad were never high-rollers. They worked hard to make a happy and comfortable life, and that’s all they ever wanted for themselves.”

They never really travelled, instead concentrating on making their little patch of the world better, he said.

In the early years of their marriage, before the family moved south to Feilding, Daphne was heavily involved with Waituna West School and the local Women’s Institute branch.

The couple were also foster parents, helping look after children in state care and raising them alongside their own children.

When Albert died of cancer in 1991, Daphne took comfort in her crafts and kept herself busier with them than ever before to deal with the grief.

Daphne Sowerby, with some of the hundreds of items she knitted for her annual fundraising stall.

Rutherford said the Arohanui Hospice was so kind and supportive in her father’s final days that her mum decided to sell her handiwork and donate the proceeds to help continue its work.

In 1992, Daphne held her first craft day at her home, offering a free afternoon tea to attract patrons and raising her first $200 for hospice.

Rutherford said her mother’s children’s books, with hand-stitched pictures in them and an original story by Daphne, were her favourites.

“She made hundreds of them, which people sent all over the world … She loved that. She always wanted to write children’s books growing up.”

Towards the end of her life, Daphne set out to make a unique picture book for each of her great-grandchildren.

“She wanted them all to have something to remember her by. But she didn’t manage to finish them all, due to her health.”

She is survived by her three children, 11 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

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