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The Nelson Photo News



Local Identity

Reuben Stephens

Nelson has many well-known citizens, but we doubt if there is one man who is more widely known throughout the province and many parts of the South Island, or more popular, than Mr Reuben Stephens. There are many newcomers to Nelson who hear about the legendary exploits of this man before they learn the names of the Mayor and Member of Parliament.

Who is this man Stephens? And are the stories one hears about him true? We asked him.

"listen, boy, I didn't tell all those stories. Other jokers did that," he told us. "But are they true, Reuben?" we asked. "Weell," he said, "I'll tell you something." And promptly launched into a story we hadn't yet heard.

Reuben Stephens is a Maori, and very proud of the fact. He was born in Motueka in 1902 and received his early education there and at Delaware Bay where his parents farmed. Later he became a boarder at that famous Maori secondary school, Te Aute College, in Hawke's Bay. Upon leaving school he took a job with the New Zealand Railways but left after a misunderstanding about a certain coffin. "They fined me thirty bob for haulage," he said. He married in 1922 and came back to farm at Delaware Bay (below). He farmed the property for 40 years before selling his part of it a few years ago.

At the age of 67 he's not prepared to take life too easy. He's contemplating (but not very seriously, we gathered) about giving up his job at one of the Invercargill freezing works during the killing season, and putting in the extra time into improving his already lovely home above the port. He follows the horses—in fact he's raced trotters and gallopers, and undoubtedly it's his interest in the racing sport that has brought him so many friends all over New Zealand.

Now, at the age of 67, he's not worried about the future. "I'm not worried about dying. They say the best go first. I've got a long way to go yet. But, man, I've had a mighty life, and I don't know any man I couldn't call a friend," he said. How many of us can say that?