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Mary White Obituary

Formally Mary Truby King
Born Esther Loreena Gordon
Born 25 January 1904
Died 18 April 2002

Mrs Mary White, the only daughter of Sir Truby King and Lady King, the founder of the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, died in South Australia on 18 April 2002, aged 98 years.

Born in January 1904, Mary White was adopted 13 months later by Dr Truby King and his wife, Bella. Mary was their only child. She was later schooled at Nelson Girls’ College while her father travelled to England at the request of Lady Plunket to replicate the Plunket Society there.

Although Mary trained as a kindergarten teacher and a nurse, she spent much of her early adult life as an assistant to Sir Truby, who was knighted in 1925. When Lady King died in 1927, Mary Truby King worked closely with her father in the field of child welfare.

With Truby King’s help she wrote a much published book called Mothercraft, about the health care of infants. It was published internationally by Whitcombe & Tombs in at least 16 printings.

Sir Truby King developed an infant formula for babies who were not breastfed. He also founded the Karitane Products Society Ltd in 1927, which produced and sold a variety of infant formulae. Mary became a member of the society in 1929 and had an on-going interest in the society for 30 years.

It is suspected that Mary was never comfortable with a high profile and in 1930, at the age of 26, she moved to Australia on Plunket Society business. During the early years she helped establish a mothercraft organisation in Australia. She also wrote a weekly column on childcare and hints for young mothers for the Australian Woman’s Weekly and represented Plunket at international gatherings and meetings.

On earlier trips to France with her father she was inspired by the faith of the French Catholics and embraced it in favour of her Protestant heritage. In Sydney she was instructed in the Catholic faith and was received into the Church in 1931.

Over the years she gradually loosened her ties with the Plunket Society. Illness prevented her from returning to New Zealand for her father’s funeral in 1938. In 1945 she married Tony White, on his return from service as an air gunner in the War. Tony White trained as a forester and he and Mary settled into family life in South Australia. Within three years they had two sons, Michael and Stephen.

Although motherhood was a full-time commitment for Mary, she still found time to indulge in a great love – that of writing letters, stories and poetry.
From 1950 to 1975 Mary, her husband and sons lived on forest reserves in South East Australia. When her husband Tony died in 1997, her son Stephen lived with her until Mary was received into the Tappeiner Court retirement home in South Australia.

Throughout her time in Australia Mary maintained an interest in Plunket. She corresponded with successive presidents of the organisation. The newsletters and annual reports sent from Plunket throughout Mary’s time in Australia were always of interest to her as she tracked the progress of the organisation her father founded. In the late 1990’s her sight began to fail and it became the pastime of her son Michael to read these documents to her.

Her eldest son Michael says it is almost as if his mother had two separate stages in her life – Plunket and New Zealand and life with her husband and sons in Australia.


Information from: Royal New Zealand Plunket Society Inc
Contact: Craig Pollock, General Manager Marketing & Communications
Telephone: 04 471 0177

Prepared by: Joanne Ruscoe, Ruscoe Public Relations Limited
Telephone 04 472 4103 (DDI) 04 472 4102 (business); 04 479 2923 (home);
025 925 733 (mobile); Email: joanne@rpr.cp.nz

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