The colourful Christmas cards were spread out on her table adding to the brightness of the flowers in the yellow vase and her electric blue top.
At 78, artist Patsy Nealon is no retiring grandma, but is a vibrant woman who keeps busy gardening, painting and raising funds for good causes.
The proceeds of the Christmas cards that she is selling is going to Pregnancy Help, an organisation that provides support to pregnant women and new mothers and their babies. It was an organisation that she and her late husband, Bert Nealon, supported when it was first established. One of it’s founders was Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn’s mother, June Dunn.
Mrs Nealon found her “career” late in life. “When I got to 50, I got in the mood,” she said laughing.
“I was a part-time nurse, a part-time physio. I worked in many hospitals. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve done a hundred of things. Never made money. It was always a struggle. And my friends had careers. I thought, one day, I’ll do what I actually want to do,” she said.
When she started painting, her children and grandchildren gave her colouring pens for her birthday. When she faltered, thinking that her painting was a waste of time and money, her grandson encouraged her to continue.
East Coast Bays parish priest Fr Rafael Lobo said Mrs Nealon raised funds for all sorts of causes.
“One time, it was for the victims of the floods in Tonga and the Philippines. She’s painted something and she had a raffle for the paintings,” he said.
Fr Lobo added that Mrs Nealon has put on a pantomime called Shepherd’s Pie, based on her children’s book titled Mrs Shepherd’s Oven. Gold coin donations from the pantomime will help in some repairs around the church.
“I can’t see the point of doing anything, unless you are helping someone,” Mrs Nealon said. “Money for me is just a tool. You’ve just got to use it. It’s not making the money, it’s what you can do with it.”
Mrs Nealon’s walls were covered with her artwork, mostly colourful, some in black and white.
“I don’t do sad pictures. I don’t do mournful pictures,” she said. “If a child comes to me with a blank piece of paper and I draw on it and they stop and smile, that’s my joy.”
Mrs Nealon has put on nine exhibitions and has illustrated a children’s book and has written and illustrated another. She said that nowadays she does not really care what people think of her work.
“I stopped getting scared. The closer I get to death, the less scared I’m getting. It’s true. It’s a thought because I know I am not going to last long with my kids driving me mad,” she said with affectionate laughter.
Her dream now is to be able to sell her card designs to a foundation that helps people. She’d keep a little percentage for herself while the rest of the funds go to charity.
“If they are prepared to market them properly and not have soppy words in them and sell them cheaply just so they can give them to mums and babies,” she said. “If it goes to help people, why not?”