The lowering of a flag to half mast at Hibiscus Coast Village recognised a special connection with world famous humorist Phyllis Diller.
The village was one of two retirement complexes opened by Phyllis in 1987, who died on August 20 in her Los Angeles home aged 95.
It was opened in December by Phyllis and her New Zealand friend, celebrity gossip columnist David Hartnell.
The then owner John Bethell wanted to invite a celebrity to the event for the opening and contacted Mr Hartnell for some suggestions.
“I arranged for her to come down to open the villages because people who are going to retirement villages would know who she was – she spoke the same language,” Mr Hartnell says.
“I’ve known her for 43 years. Back then she said she always wanted to come to New Zealand whenever the option came up.
“I was asked if I could get a celebrity, and I knew exactly who should come.”
The village has a plaque up in recognition of Phyllis and her part in the opening.
“We have ordered a new, updated one to be put up because the old one was getting a little worn,” current manager Peter Gastill says.
Village resident Jocelyn Martin, now 77, was at the opening ceremony and recalls Phyllis as a very witty woman.
“She was a scream. Even when she wasn’t on camera. She made naughty jokes about how many facelifts she had. Phyllis was extremely thin and had high heels on. She made wise cracks all the time and laughed at all her own jokes. It was a very happy day.”
Jocelyn recalls the 35 residents having an afternoon tea with the celebrities.
Mr Hartnell says Phyllis was a very kind celebrity to her fans.
“You just don’t meet celebrities like they use to be. Phyllis was a very loyal friend of mine. I accompanied her on a number of occasions in Los Angeles, she was so kind to her fans who would come up.
“She always signed autographs and even carried her own pictures so she could sign them for people who didn’t have anything.
“At the village opening she was genuinely interested, she looked at everything and spoke with everyone.”
Mr Hartnell says Phyllis opened two retirement complexes on her visit, one in Mt Eden and the Hibiscus one.
She then stayed three days in Auckland and visited Rotorua.
– © Fairfax NZ News