Lifelong Dunedin resident Gaynor Haig had been finding it harder to keep up with the demands of a large garden. After suffering a mild stroke, she thought, “I need to look ahead so my family don’t have to worry.”

A call from some friends helped set a course for her future. “They rang me and said they’d put their name down for a top floor apartment at Summerset,” Gaynor says. They invited her to come down and see for herself.

It wasn’t the first time Gaynor had visited Summerset at Bishopscourt. “I’d come when the first two rows of houses were built,” Gaynor says, “but I wasn’t ready.”

This time, however, Gaynor had no hesitation. “My family members all came and had a look around,” she says. “My eldest daughter, she was very impressed – she said Mum, they’re very nice. It’s just one bedroom but what more do you need?”

But there was something Gaynor needed. As a piano teacher, she needed space for her most important possession: “I wanted my grand piano.”

 “I started learning the piano at 8 years old,” Gaynor says. “And when I did my letters, I did the Licentiate Teaching Diploma of Trinity College, London as well as a class teaching Certificate at Dunedin Teachers College. It was all completed in 1957."  

Gaynor went on to balance the demands of a family of four children with a career as a music teacher, including 18 years at Columba College in Dunedin. “I took the classroom music,” she says, “from primmers right up to the higher levels. We did lots of school shows, like ‘The King and I’ and 'The Sound of Music'.”

When she lost her husband at age 47, music was the thing that gave Gaynor focus. “I just kept going,” she says. “When I had my 80th birthday, my youngest son interviewed me. He’s very like his father – able to talk to people. And he said, ‘Mum, what’s been the most important thing in your life?’ And I said it’s been music – it’s the thing that’s kept me going.”

All of which explains the importance of Gaynor’s grand piano, which she still regularly uses to teach students: it simply wouldn’t fit in a care apartment.  “I was walking out, and a gentleman was walking in,” Gaynor recalls. “I belong to a rotary club and he belonged too, and he said to me the next night at rotary, ‘Gaynor, you were walking around the village – were you casing the joint?’ And I said, ‘Actually Lex, I was!’ He said, ‘Have you looked at a two-storey one?’”

Gaynor came back, deposit in hand, and this time viewed one of Summerset at Bishopscourt’s two story townhouses. “I could see that one of the bedrooms would take a grand piano,” she says. “It was big enough and just by the front door.”

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Gaynor with a student

It’s been three years since Gaynor and her grand piano moved in – and she’s found the lifestyle at Summerset to be a good fit for her. “I know a lot of people here,” she says, noting that the vibrant community is a good antidote to loneliness. “And if I get a bit tired of talking, I can come and hide away. And it’s nice to have a little bit of garden.”

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Gaynor's love for teaching continues