Death in the Family

Watchdog also acknowledges CAFCA members who have recently lost family.


CAFCA expresses our condolences to Lynn Baird for the death of her mother, Betty who died suddenly of a stroke, aged 75, in November 2007, in Auckland. This was a hell of a shock not only to her family but also to me. I’d visited her and Lynn at their Waiheke Island homes, and the three of us had gone out for a very pleasant lunch together, just the weekend before the stroke which led to her death a few days later. It had been five years since the death of Betty’s husband, Ken (see Watchdog 101, December 2002, which can be read online at and at that lunch I’d had her on about being a merry widow. She was, too, not being one to let the grass grow under her feet. In those five years she’d travelled in NZ, all over Aussie and as far away as Barcelona (she was one of the Kiwi contingent who went there in 2007 for the America’s Cup).

Over the years, various members of the Baird family, including Ken and Betty, have been members of CAFCA and they were both very pleased to be present at our 25th anniversary celebration, in Christchurch, in 2000. Betty was an extremely vivacious and gregarious woman, who both brought up four daughters and worked all her life, in a variety of working class jobs. Her political activism went back decades and went up a notch during the epic struggle against the 1981 Springbok Tour (she got hurt at one Auckland protest).

Berry and Ken lived life to the full, travelling overseas, touring New Zealand in their campervan, or going fishing from their second home on Waiheke Island (which became their home proper once Ken retired). During the nearly four decades I’ve known the family, I ran into Ken and Betty all over the place – in Christchurch, at their Papatoetoe and Waiheke homes, and in Sydney (three of their four daughters have lived there for long periods; one still does). I have vivid memories of one particular Sydney occasion in the 1980s, when their family got together with that of my then partner (the Bairds and the Birds). They got on like a house on fire. Both families were matriarchies and the men were forced to trudge around, bringing up the rear, while the women emptied the Cronulla shops. Ken and I ended up squatting in shop doorways, sitting on a chilly bin of beer that we lugged everywhere with us and steadily consuming its contents (nobody batted an eyelid, this was Australia). We all had a great day, with a boat trip across to the beautiful beach at Bundeena and more than 20 of us had an uproarious night out in one of the monstrous clubs of the Ocker suburbs, where Warren Mitchell did his Alf Garnett act and brought the Aussies to their feet every time he told New Zealand jokes (the bastard – they were funny though). They were game for anything – we all spent one boisterous New Year’s Eve at a Darlinghurst gay bar in central Sydney.

I’ve still got photos of the long ago day on the beach at Bundeena and, ironically, Betty and I were reminiscing about it over that Waiheke lunch in November, not realising that it would be the last time we’d see each other. Betty Baird was a memorable woman, good fun and sparkling company. She will be sorely missed by her four daughters, Sharleen, Lynn, Sandy and Julie, four grandsons and all her friends, me included.

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