Obituary: Keitha Journeaux 1928 -2017

Keitha Journeaux
Keitha Journeaux

From the 1970s, Wanganui Chronicle regional journalist Keitha Journeaux of Raetihi wrote hundreds of stories from the Waimarino.

She was also raising seven sons, was involved in several community organisations and clubs and was a prolific home baker dishing out delicious cakes and scones to everyone from her family to local schools and even Chronicle colleagues.

One son, Rod Journeaux, who has lived in Cambridge, in Britain, for the past 16 years said his mum was a stoic, cheerful and uncomplicated woman.

"She was caring and her kindness knew no bounds."

Rod was in Whanganui a week ago spending time with his mum days before she died.
He said while he and brothers were growing up they belonged to most sports clubs and were on the committees.

"When we all moved on mum moved in and took our place on the committee."
Rod laughed when he said his mum even ran the Young Wives Club.

"And she was far from young."

When Keitha went into care six years ago in Whanganui she took with her special writing table with her.

"Mum and I would play Scrabble at that table and she would often interrupt our game to write a story for the Chronicle about the floral art show or something."

He remembers her putting her stories in the special brown envelope and sending him round to the back of the Four Square to put it in the slot. Then the bus would collect all the mail for Wanganui.

Former Wanganui Chronicle editor Jim McLees said there was nothing in the Waimarino that escaped Keitha.

"She had a handle on everything. We never had to worry about missing anything."
He said her baking was legendary.

"She drove through to Whanganui every 8 to 10 days and the newsroom was on full alert because she used to bring the most delicious home baking with her."

A home help column by then editorial assistant Dorothy Smith (Aunty Dot) actually featured some of Keitha's recipes.

In her piece on neenish tarts she wrote: "Our regional correspondent, Keitha Journeaux, from Raetihi, always brought a batch of these delightful tarts to the newsroom when she visited us. They were extremely popular and the men in particular loved them. Sadly, Keitha is retired now and the neenish tart treats are no more."

Jim clearly recalls Keitha's handwritten stories arriving by bus.

"We would transcribe them at this end and type them up. She was a wonderful woman. We all loved her and she never ever let us down."

Keitha was also a woman with decided views which she aired frequently in letters to the editor.

One she wrote was about smacking children.

"I've been trying to imagine the toddlers of the future. No little smacks for touching or hurting other toddlers. Instead we shut him/her in a room, or discuss what has been done wrong.

"The fact that they have no idea about the isolation or the chat is of no consequence. A smack would deter a repeat of the offence. If not another light snack if it was repeated.

I can see parents getting frustrated, the growing child getting naughtier, until everything explodes into abuse. Discipline in the early years until the child is old enough to recognise isolation as a punishment and discussions when he/she can understand, will give the child the sense of security and love needed from an early age.

Let's have common sense and try to remember - a smack in time saves nine!"
And there was her political leanings which she never hid.

She made her feelings very clear in a letter about government in the run-up to an election: "Free New Zealand from the oppression of a Labour Government which puts money before people and bureaucracy before commonsense. The government has made so many poor decisions in the education system, with millions spent on shady institutions, blatant PC spending, downgrading of the Correspondence School, the closure of rural schools.

"The shutting down of the Raetihi Pre-school shows how inflexible bureaucracy ignores commonsense and the early childhood education of 45 country children."

Former Chronicle assistant editor Colin Rowatt wrote a feature story in 2003 about Keitha just after she retired.

He wrote that almost three decades of putting the people and happenings of the Waimarino Keitha Journeaux had called time.

And her notebook and pen were still on the small table in the lounge that had been her work station for 30 years.

"But from now on it will be used for somewhat more mundane purposes - like making grocery lists - than recording news stories."

There was "no drum roll and fanfare" when she was asked her if she would do the job of the Chronicle stringer she said yes and "slowly eased into it".

At that time Keitha, a former school teacher, was a housewife and mother raising seven sons and was also involved a wide range of community organisations, he wrote.

Like so many people who take on a role more as a community service than a money-making job, Keitha gave no thought, at the time, as to how long she might last, he wrote.

There were a number of reasons why she has carried on, not least of which has been the enjoyment she has got out of the work and the challenges and opportunities that stringing for the Chronicle has provided.

And most, if not all, that enjoyment and satisfaction has come from telling the stories.

There were, of course, some "bad moments" and embarrassing ones too, like turning up at a major community event with no film in her camera and having to borrow a roll from the photographer from the local paper.

Keitha admitted occasionally feeling a bit uncomfortable when reporting on and photographing events involving important dignitaries - prime ministers and governors-general and the like.

"I always felt I wasn't a real journalist and photographer so was there under sort of false pretences," she had said.

But being the Chronicle's eyes and ears in the Waimarino for the past 30 years had been fun and enjoyable.
"I'd do it all again," Keitha said, with enthusiasm. "And I'd probably do it better the second time round"!

- Wanganui Chronicle

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