Down the line 

MARGARET JEAN WALLIS:  13.08.1938 – 14.10.2021

Jean Wallis played sport across the region and for Te Awamutu Bowling Club.

Jean Wallis will be a familiar name to many Waikato sports-lovers.  Those whose lives she touched across generations will remember her contagious passion and abiding belief that playing sport helps shape character.

From childhood, Jean played and excelled in a range of sports, primarily softball, netball, and indoor basketball.  Decades spent coaching and umpiring only enhanced the reputation she had built as a player.  She took up lawn bowls in later life, applying the same dedication to that as she had to other disciplines and was soon racking up wins at local, regional and provincial level, including four Waikato bowling titles.

Word has it that in Jean’s case, the term sports ‘fan’ translated directly to ‘fanatic’.   That reference was made during a private celebration of her life after Jean died in Waikato Hospital in mid-October.  It is because of her expansive sporting reach that the family has decided to hold a memorial service for Jean at the Cambridge Raceway from 1pm on February 18, at which all will be welcome.

Jean was born in Taranaki on August 13, 1938, the youngest of five children.  Jean and her siblings were brought up by a solo-mother in Roto-o-Rangi and attended the primary school there.  She later played softball and netball for Cambridge High School, going on to represent Cambridge and attain Waikato honours through being part of the Waikato softball team that won the Bensel Cup and Coca-Cola Trophy at the 1955 New Zealand Interprovincial Championships.

A year later, in 1956, she married Ted Wallis.  They raised three children at their Roto-o-Rangi farm, with Jean all the while continuing her involvement with Cambridge softball and netball. Her eldest daughter Dianne Overwater said her mother then took up playing indoor basketball in the local competition.

“After her years of playing netball, she umpired and coached local representative teams, and went on to the

Waikato sub association as coach for five years,” Dianne said. “She was honoured with a life membership for her contribution to netball.”

Jean’s sporting prowess has passed on to her family.  Dianne played in the Cambridge softball team alongside her mother, and both Dianne and her late sister Margaret played indoor basketball against Jean. Dianne and Margaret both represented Waikato at softball; Dianne represented Cambridge at netball and moved into coaching and umpiring. She still officiates at netball games.  Jean’s son Ian played soccer, and both his sons swam competitively, while both Dianne’s daughters played netball at representative level, with the younger making Waikato age group teams.

In the early 1990s, Jean and Ted moved to Leamington.  Jean continued with her sporting commitments while also working for the then Cambridge Independent, and what was then Wright’s Bookshop.  She also joined the Leamington Bowling Club where she was described as a ‘keen and regular bowler’ both at club and competition level, winning several championships.  She was club president for a year.

When the Leamington club closed in 2012, Jean joined the Te Awamutu Bowling Club where she notched up a raft of additional wins.

Dianne said her mother was very family-oriented and was always on hand to support her children and grandchildren in their endeavours.

Jean is survived by her daughter Dianne and son Ian, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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