ZB

Cambridge tree death: 'Shattered' family pays tribute to amazing mum

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 May 2022, 3:32pm
The 80-year-old pin oak claimed the life of an 81-year-old amazing woman and mother, according to the family of Margaret Evelyn who died in Cambridge last week. Photo / Adam Pearse
The 80-year-old pin oak claimed the life of an 81-year-old amazing woman and mother, according to the family of Margaret Evelyn who died in Cambridge last week. Photo / Adam Pearse

Cambridge tree death: 'Shattered' family pays tribute to amazing mum

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 May 2022, 3:32pm

The family of Margaret Evelyn, who died in Cambridge last week after she was hit by a falling tree, is paying tribute to an amazing woman and mum who had plenty of life left in her. 

Evelyn, 81, had just finished at the gym – where she was a regular – and was waiting for a friend on the edge of Cambridge's Victoria Square last Friday during a strong storm that reportedly included a small tornado. 

She had been sheltering under a large pin oak tree to avoid the weather when it was tipped and fell on her. 

Emergency services worked hard to free Evelyn before she was taken to Waikato Hospital, where she later died. 

Kristen Hapi – one of Evelyn's three sons – told the Herald his mother's passing was unexpected and sudden, given how full of life she was. 

"Seriously, she had 20 more years left in her," Kristen said. 

His grandmother – Evelyn's mother – had lived into her 90s and Kristen said his mother was twice as healthy. 

It was for that reason she would have detested being referred to as elderly, Kristen said. 

"Mum would've hated being called elderly because she's fit, she's healthy, she's vibrant, had all the marbles, and she was an amazing mother and amazing woman." 

Originally Margaret Evelyn Freundlich, her Jewish Austrian parents escaped the holocaust and settled in New Zealand before she was born on July 26, 1940 in New Plymouth. 

She trained as a primary school teacher before studying te reo Māori at Waikato University. 

The tree was uprooted during a short but strong storm that passed through the area. Photo / Supplied 

Proficient in the language, she would be one of the country's first bilingual teachers at Rakaumanga Kura Kaupapa Māori. 

People who first arrived at the scene last week did all they could to help Evelyn, including talking to her and attempting to dig her out from under the tree. 

Kristen said he was so grateful for those who assisted, as well as police who allowed family time to say their goodbyes while she was at the hospital. 

Brett Hapi, another of Evelyn's sons based in Australia, extended gratitude from the entire family to those who shared heartfelt messages regarding their loss. 

"It means the world to us ... thank you from the bottom of our hearts." 

He said the family was "shattered" Evelyn's life had ended in such circumstances, but again referenced how grateful they were to be supported by first responders, members of the public, the local council and hospital staff. 

'It was devastating' 

Richard and Trixie Millet had parked their campervan in front of the fallen tree in Cambridge's Victoria Square, possibly just minutes after it hit the ground. 

At the time the pair were unaware a person was stuck underneath. 

Two trees had fallen but at that stage – about 10am – no emergency services were at the scene and there was no indication someone needed help. 

They walked to a nearby cafe, but when Richard returned to the camper, he knew something was wrong by the presence of emergency services staff digging with shovels around the base of the fallen tree, presumably to free the woman. 

"It was devastating that I wasn't aware that someone needed help, that we could have called emergency services earlier," he told the Herald. 

Richard rushed back to the cafe and informed Trixie and the friends they had been meeting. 

"[Richard] came back very pale and shocked," Trixie said. 

Tree was healthy and had been pruned 

Waipā District Council said the tree was felled by "freakishly" high winds. 

The tree was a healthy pin oak that was about 80 years old. 

It had been pruned at the start of April and there had been no previous concerns about it, council group manager customer and community services Sally Sheedy said. 

"It has been described to me as a mini-tornado which look to have lifted a perfectly healthy tree out of the ground." 

- by Adam Pearse, NZ Herald