Obituary: Liz Wood

Liz Wood, longstanding colleague and friend of the former College and current Faculty of Education, passed away peacefully on 27 August 2019.

Portrait of Liz made from the pictures of her colleagues
This mosaic photo of Liz was used for her retirement card and featured on the walls around the staff room at the Karori Campus the night of her retirement function in 2013. Made of colleagues’ faces, this photo represents all those people who will miss Liz.
Liz began her career in Education as Secretary to the Council of the College of Education in 1981. During her more than 30 years’ service, she worked as the Secretary to the Dean and Registrar, Secretary to Council, Executive Assistant (EA) to the Principal, and was then appointed the Dean’s EA after the merger of the College of Education with Victoria University of Wellington.

She was an integral part of the Karori campus during her extensive career, and was not only a loyal worker and respected colleague but a loved friend.

“The institution owes her too many debts of gratitude to mention, but her ability to smooth over ruffled feathers was of incalculable benefit when we sought accreditation for the various qualifications we introduced. Liz always befriended the panelists, saw to their every material need, and convinced them by her deeds that everything we were promising to do what be done,” says Emeritus Professor Dugald Scott of his former EA. “Through her time at the University, she was known as the person to whom anyone could go with a problem, a difficult task, a worry, or a great story. She had enormous empathy, and the kind of directness and honesty that led people to trust her.”

Liz is survived by her much-loved children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and brother John.

Some of her former colleagues and friends have shared memories and messages:

Liz was a treasured member of The Tight Five—a group consisting of Helen Meo, Beryl Duncan, Debbie Thornton, and Jenny Rowe. The group formed 25 years ago kept the former colleagues in contact with regular meetings to this day.

Helen, Beryl, Debbie and Jenny recall how compassionate, caring, wise and non-confrontational Liz was when people she worked with had troubles they wished to share and seek guidance on, “She was very kind and giving of herself.  Liz always looked for the positives and this continued until the end of her life.”

“Liz was always fun to be with, having a delightful and, at times, wicked sense of humour.  We wined and dined, talked, shared, and laughed together at restaurants every few months, having our special Christmas celebration last year at Bellamy’s.  One Fat Bird in Karori was always a favourite venue.

Liz was an amazing mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.  She lived for her loving family, sharing updates about them when we met, and they adored her.

Even though we have lost our cherished Liz, we will remain The Tight Five as she will always be with us in spirit."

Barry Doyle, former colleague from the old College of Education remembers Liz as a ‘remarkable woman’ whose ‘laughter and smile came into the room before she did’.

“She was always buoyant, optimistic, and future looking.  Liz was devoted to the students. She helped steer many through their difficulties. There was a time when the T-Coll and the University wrestled for control of the future of Teacher Training. Liz was party to all the goings on, but no-one would have guessed. She was completely loyal, reliable, and confidential.

In her private life she showed the same qualities of optimism and energy. When her husband Jim died, Liz was left with three teenage sons and a teenage daughter. She never stopped to say ‘poor me’ but picked up the ball and ran for the line. Her objective was to raise those children to the highest standards of behaviour and achievement. In this she was incredibly successful. She was a wonderful colleague and friend. We all miss her sadly”.

For former colleague Matt McCrudden Liz was one of a kind: “Liz was such a wonderful, gracious, and caring person with such charm.  She was very kind to me, Sally, and the boys throughout our time in Wellington.  For my first two years in Wellington, I flatted in her lower unit.  We’d have happy hour on her back deck on a Friday when the sun was out and have a good yarn.  We stayed in touch after she retired”.

Current EA to the Dean of Education Pam Berry: “I had the job of trying to fill Lizzie’s larger-than-life shoes when she retired at the beginning of 2013. Soon after, I started having drinks with Lizzie on her sunny back deck, then we started to go to One Fat Bird—her favourite bar in Karori—every six weeks or so, and the group got steadily bigger as word got out.  She loved those catch-ups and always wanted to know the latest news of people and events affecting the Faculty.  She never made it to any drinks this year, but I kept organising them in the event she would be well enough to join us. This was not to be. Rest in Peace, Lizzie.”

Professor Vanessa Green: “She was the very first person that Jeff and I met when we came over for our interviews and I just knew we were going to love it here because she made us feel so welcome”.

Former colleague Elizabeth Morris thinks back to the times Liz would pop in to see her: “She used to love a new pair of fancy shoes or boots and always popped into my office to talk when she went out the back door for a smoke many times a day”.