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Grace Death was born on the 23 May 1900 at Hawera, the oldest of nine children of Albert Ernest and Alice Maude Mary Death nee Winks. 


Grace was brought up to become a capable right hand assistant to her extremely busy mother, and entered into the family spirit with gusto. She supervised family chores, doing more than her own share, and led many of the family recreation activities - regular readings aloud around the fire, bridge, croquet and tennis at home, and annual holidays at the Ohawe beach cottage.  But her life was by no means limited to home activities.  Grace was a mountaineer, a hockey player in younger days, and later a keen and involved golfer at the Fairfield club.  For many years, she was head woman steward for the Egmont A and P Show. 


Her ease with children led her to the Girl Guide movement where she became an early company captain.  Membership of St Mary's Anglican Church took her into Sunday school and bible class leadership.


At the age of 35, Grace turned to nursing a friend's chronically ill husband, and upon his death, drifted to Wellington to fill housekeeping jobs.  Then something happened which changed the course of her life - the outbreak of war. 


Grace joined the Navy in a civilian capacity as cook, and was the first woman in New Zealand to work in a naval training ship. She had misgivings about the Navy Department making her the first woman "aboard" one of their "ships" and confessed to her own hidden but equally apprehensive feelings at being the subject of the experiment.  Grace became a popular personality on the ship.  The Hawera Star said "Even the most patriotic woman would have good reason to flinch at a war-time job that entails daily arranging a menu and cooking for 40 men!"


After a year, Grace joined the Air Force.  She again worked as a civilian, this time in the manning registry and accounts section until ill health forced her retirement in 1951.  She then held a senior position.


Grace Death died on the 11 April 1951 at Hawera and is buried at the Hawera cemetery.



Noeline Blackman, New Plymouth (sister)

Article "Hawera Star" 24 Oct 1941