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Nance Bisset was born in 1910 in Russell, North Auckland where her parents has The Bungalow boarding establishment next to Pompallier House.  Nance’s childhood revolved around the boarding house and each time the English fleet was in port the family were invited to balls and other social events held on board ship.


From three until 12 years of age, Nance had a leg in plaster.  It was found later that she had tuberculosis of the bone, and even though she had a limp, she led a normal life playing tennis etc.


One day she met Arthur Smith from Hawera, who was on one of his deep-sea fishing trips, a three day drive from Taranaki.  The couple married in Russell’s historic church and made their home in Hawera.


Nance was instrumental in forming the NZ branch of Servas International, an organisation for the promotion of peace.  It operates as a non-profit group with members offering free hospitality in their homes to overseas visitors, relying on people-to-people contacts to further international understanding.


Servas NZ began with a few Taranaki hosts in the early 1960's and has since grown to over 500 hosts in both islands.  NZ Members can call on an international host list on their own travels.  It includes most countries of the world, with such unlikely ones as Russia and the Balkans.


Nance was elected a life member of Servas International for her efforts in NZ, Australia and the Pacific.  She was well known for her advocacy and practice - of picking up hitch-hikers, putting them up and converting them to become hosts in their own lands.


Well over 400 people signed the Smith’s visitor’s book, and some of the guests included the Danish gym team, a Nigerian dance team and Winifred Atwell who came for a meal.  The guests were expected to join in with all the household chores, including the dishes.


It is estimated that several thousands of people came to New Zealand under the auspices of Servas since Nan inaugurated the branch here.


Nan and Arthur spent most of their lives in Hawera before retiring to Oakura where Nance died on the 6 May 1989 aged 79 years.



Obituary “Hawera Star” May 1989

Jan Brash, Oakura (daughter)