Former Canterbury woman dies aged 108: Was she NZ's oldest person?

Moy Kin Ng. Photo: Supplied
Moy Kin Ng. Photo: Supplied
Before settling in Canterbury, Moy Kim Ng experienced demanding work in the Cantonese rice paddies and grew up with no school and few opportunities to get ahead. But she raised eight children in New Zealand and even in her last years, the 108-year-old was a swift hand at poker.

Mrs Ng, who may have been New Zealand’s oldest person, died on January 9 at St Andrew’s Home and Hospital in Dunedin.

Family celebrated her life at her funeral at Gillions Funeral Services in Dunedin on Thursday with stories of her teaching grandchildren poker, blackjack and mahjong.

The games acted as communication between them and their grandmother, whose English was limited.

The family admired her cooking, including dim sims, pork buns, Chinese doughnuts and steamed sponge.

Mrs Ng was born on July 3, 1911, in a Cantonese village where there were few opportunities.

She worked wherever she could to earn enough to feed herself, including toiling in rice paddies, working in gardens, cleaning and cooking.

She also raised chickens and kept pigs.

As a young woman, she wed Fook Ying Ng in an arranged marriage.

He immigrated to New Zealand in 1946 to work in market gardens, and three years later, Mrs Ng and their five children followed on a three-month boat journey.

The family settled in Ashburton and the couple had three more children.

However, life became a struggle when Mr Ng died of cancer in 1960.

In spite of speaking little English, she worked at a market garden, Chinese restaurant and a on a poultry farm while raising children. And she was still able to send money to family in China.

She lived in Oamaru for a time when son Jack attended Waitaki Boys’ High School and in Christchurch with son Tom to look after his children.

She settled in Dunedin with Jack and his children in 1988.

Mrs Ng has 25 grandchildren, but the number of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren was difficult to count as families dispersed.

Until she was 104, Mrs Ng could care for herself, but she eventually moved into St Andrew's.

Jack said there was never a dull moment for his mother, who worked hard and had a strong sense of family.

Her son Fred said it mainly seemed to be luck which led to his mother’s longevity.

"People talk today about healthy eating, but she always cooked with animal fat and a lot of salt. Without salt, there was no flavour, she’d say."

Mrs Ng was one of New Zealand’s oldest people, but it is difficult to establish who holds the record.

In September, The New Zealand Herald wrote of the death of Wairoa woman Martha Timoko, who it claimed was the country’s oldest at age 107.

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