Jacquie Baxter Honoured

Huge Turnout for Jacquie Baxter

Memorial Service in Paekakariki

By Alan Tristram
January 22, 2010
"Mourners led by Tuki Takiwa and John Baxter (to right of Tuki)walk to the seafront after the service for Jacquie Baxter."

Nearly 200 people from all walks of life packed the Paekakariki Memorial Hall for a remembrance service honouring Jacquie Baxter, the acclaimed Maori poet and writer.

Jacquie, also known as J C Sturm, died recently after a long illness. She was buried near her birthplace in Taranaki.

In Paekakariki, the hills were shrouded in mist and light rain as whanau, friends and community representatives gathered.

The service was conducted in Maori and English and was attended by Maori and Pakeha from many parts of the Wellington Region.

A galaxy of famous writers and artists spoke or sang their tributes; among them Glenn Colquhoun, Patricia Grace, Apirana Taylor, Hinemoana Baker, and Michael OLeary.

The official guests included the Hon. Winnie Laban, MP; Councillors Lyndy McIntyre and Hilary Wooding, and Community Board chair Adrian Webster, who also represented Mayor Jenny Rowan.

Tributes Flow

One of the eloquent tributes came from poet Glenn Colquhoun.

He said Jacquie was a quiet unobtrusive woman who had backbone; and who survived into old age ‘breaking the back of age.’ And he dedicated a short poem to her memory.

Paekakariki poet Michael O’Leary said Jacquie was a bright woman who was concerned about what was happening in the wider world – but always retained great aroha for ordinary people.

Patricia Grace, who is now one of New Zealand’s leading novelists, also dedicated a special poem to her.

And one of the most moving family tributes came from a great grandson of Jacquie’s – Jack McDonald.

He recalled his mother Stephanie, who had long been a carer for her grandmother, but tragically predeceased her by just two months.

He quoted these lines from Jacquie’s poem ‘At times I grieve’:

Go home; eat, drink, be

"Well-known singer Hinemoana Baker sings her tribute to Jacquie Baxter, pictured in the background"

As merry as you can,

Make love as though

For the very last time

Warming each other through

And through to the still centre,

Then in the quiet that follows

After, learn how quickly,

How easily, love makes

Everything possible again.

Publisher Pays Last Tribute

Then Jacquie’s publisher Roger Steele told the gathering “She was an inspiration to many other writers.”

And, he said, New Zealand ‘would not see her like again.’

MP Winnie Laban pointed out that for too long many women had been only known as ‘the wife of a husband.’

But she said Jacquie ‘became her own woman – and defined herself.’

"Watched by dozens of other mourners,Mereana McDonald with her flowers on steps leading to the Paekakariki foreshore."

Mokopuna Cast Last Flowers Upon the Sea

After the ceremony, family and friends crossed the road to the sea front.

There — as rain fell out of the mist of the afternoon skies — the great-grandchildren cast a kete of flowers into the surf.

Other whanau and friends also sent their floral tributes into the waves, watched by many of the mourners who lined the seafront.

Then they all returned to the hall for a community afternoon tea.

Jacquie Baxter/ J C Sturm – always remembered

Born in Opunake in 1927, Jacquie Baxter was of Taranaki and Whakatohea descent and had lived in Paekakariki for many years.   One of the first Maori women to obtain a university degree in 1949, JC Sturm’s short stories featured in select journals throughout the 1950s and 60s and, amongst other firsts for Maori writers, she was the first Maori writer to be published in an anthology.   A collection of her short stories was finally published in 1983. She is best known as a poet for her books Dedications, which won a Poetry Honour Award at the 1997 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and Postscripts. A collection of stories and poems The Glass House followed in 2006.
Widow of J K Baxter
The widow of poet James K Baxter, Jacquie Baxter’s later life was also marked by her work as his literary executor.   She later remarried the late academic Peter Alcock, who also lived in Paekakariki. In the last couple of years Jacquie had been living with her granddaughter Stephanie Baxter and whanau.   Stephanie passed away late last year and was also remembered at the service.   Jacquie is survived by her son John and daughter Hilary and their whanau.