Edna Wills Place.jpg Edna Wills Place sign (2019). Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

Edna Wills Place in Hāwera is named after a well-known Hāwera woman who spent her life in voluntary work for many local organisations, including the Egmont A&P Association, the Women’s Division of the Federated Farmers, the Presbyterian Church and her favourite sport, croquet.

Edna was born in Hāwera in 1912, the only child of Ann and Ernest Washer who farmed at Okaiawa. Her mother died when Edna was 17 years old. Edna married Harold Wills, a farmer, when she was aged about 48.

She was very active in the community of Okaiawa as a young woman, hosting local events, competing in croquet tournaments and entering horticultural shows. She also started her voluntary work as secretary or president of various community groups at this time, many of which she remained active with her whole life.

She was elected as the President of the Okaiawa Women’s Division of the Farmers Union (later known as the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers, WDFF) in 1934, was the President of the NPGHS Old Girls Association Union and raised funds for the Presbyterian Church. On top of this she won the hotly contested Hāwera Queen Carnival Contest in 1934.

On top of her community work she was an excellent croquet player and represented New Zealand at the New Zealand Croquet Championships in Auckland in 1935.

At a young age she followed in her father’s and grandfather’s footsteps (both past presidents) and became involved with the Egmont A&P Association. She served as the chief steward of the home industries section for 51 years, a job her mother had done before her.

She was elected patron of the Association when she retired in 1987 and the home industries hall was named after her. She was also a life member of the WDFF and of the New Zealand Croquet Council. At one point she was secretary for no less than 13 various South Taranaki committees and organisations.

Edna Wills was awarded an OBE in 1979 for her services to croquet, country women’s organisations and the Presbyterian Church.

Edna Wills Place, which boarders the Egmont A&P Showgrounds, was formed in the early 1990s and formerly named after Edna not long after her death in March 1997 at the age of 85.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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