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Tribute to Rosalie Carey

Zela Charlton - 21/07/2011

There was a party in Whangarei on Friday night.

So what - hundreds of parties everywhere, no doubt. But this was different. It was a Celebration, a Performance, a wake, a tangi . It was the way a wonderful woman wanted to be farewelled.

Rosalie Carey would have loved this party, and had helped to organize it all before her death last week. Her passing was not unexpected, as she had had another celebration not long ago for her 90 birthday, but that was a much smaller family occasion. This was a final production, a Tribute to someone who had spent her whole, long life in the service of Drama and the Arts.

Her son and grandson were the MC's, her sister sang and other members of the family took part in the tributes. There was a Video, filmed not too long ago by Stuart Devenie and the Holee Cow production team, in which Rosalie talked about her days in Dunedin, when she and her husband Patrick had established The Globe Theatre, in their own house. The black and white photos, interspersed with the reminiscences, amused and illustrated the struggles that they had in order to establish what became a treasured NZ icon. But then Rosalie has described all this in one of her many writings "A Theatre in the House".

Besides her efforts with the Globe venture, Rosalie was an accomplished actress (I like the old sex-differentiated term) who had trained in the UK after her time in the Air Force, and she had continued performing right on until recently. One of the amusing stories told was of her trip to Japan for a TV production in her 88th year . when she had to perform nude with an equally nude baby who was not co-operative.

But this was not just the usual eulogies-and-hymn approach of many modern funeral-type services. There was champagne and food, there was music and singing, there was an abundance of poetry. Rosalie was a prolific writer of poetry and produced many slim volumes of verse, many of which were chosen for reading to the audience but there were also a number of new poems that had been specially written in tribute. There were many writers, musicians and artists among the people there, representative of some of the many creative groups which flourish in Whangarei and which had been encouraged and supported by Rosalie over the years.

There were references to James K. Baxter, who had been involved with the Globe when they performed some of his plays; there was a saxophone player, a drummer and a session by The Blue Skies Band. There were young people who had been drama students with Rosalie until recently as well as older students from the Dunedin days, and other people with memories of her 'open house' approach when she had a small cottage in Wellington.

There was laughter and tears but mainly laughter and a general feeling of a love of life that predominated it all. And that love of life was what Rosalie was all about. And why there was also a feeling of sadness among the assembly. Whangarei will miss her.