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Phyllis Josephine Bourke was born in Whenuakura on the 27 June 1908, the first child of Patrick Alexander and Ethel Victoria Bourke nee Chadwick. Her primary schooling was done at Whenuakura, and then she went to Sacred Heart College in Wanganui and later New Plymouth.


Phyllis stayed at home until she was 27, when she went to Napier to do her nursing training, commencing in January 1936 and graduating in December 1939.  She resigned from the Napier Hospital in March 1940 and returned to Hawera to nurse there.


In January 1942 the NZ Army Services were in need of nurses to care for the injured overseas so she joined the Army and did her training at the Waiouru Military Camp.  Conditions there were tough living in tents during the winter.


Phyllis travelled in the troop ship White Star to North African, and she then served in Cairo, Beirut, Helwaon,Tripoli and Bari, Italy from 1942 to 1945.


Phyllis married Staff Sergeant Wilson Preller of Krugersdorp, Transvaal, South Africa on the 9 December 1944 at Bari, Italy.  Wilson was with the South African Medical Corps, and prior to their engagement he returned home and whilst there bought a diamond.  Upon his return the couple collected all sorts of gold pieces of jewellery which they melted down to have "just the right setting made for the engagement ring."


At the end of the war Phyllis returned to Patea to collect more possessions for her home in South Africa.  Her first Glory Box had accompanied her to the war but "went missing" on a camel train when they were travelling to Cairo. Wilson went on to South Africa to make a home for his new bride.  Phyllis, coming from a large family, was daunted about starting life in a strange country, but her bubbly personality soon made her friends.  The couple built a home in Krugersdorp where Phyllis nursed again for some years. To begin with as she was unable to speak Afrikaans, Phyllis worked in the native wards.


In 1960 the political situation in South Africa was in shambles and life not easy.  With the start of the Sharpville Uprising it was considered time to return to New Zealand.  Phyllis and her two daughters arrived in Patea in July, with Wilson following later.  Phyllis worked as a sister in the Patea Hospital from late 1960 until June 1973.


Phyllis Josephine Preller died on the 22 October 1986 at Taihape where she had gone to live with her daughters.  She is buried at the Patea RSA cemetery.



Dianne McCarthy and Vicki Devane (daughters)