Tui Alfreda Mayo was born on 13 January 1905 at Aorangi, Manawatu, the youngest of four daughters of Annie Honeyford and her husband, Alfred Richard Mayo, an orchardist and nurseryman. She was educated at Taonui School and Feilding Technical School, then Feilding Agricultural High School, where she was a founding pupil in 1922. Her first job was in the Agricultural High School’s office, and in 1923 she convened and became first secretary-treasurer of its Old Pupils’ Association. When the school’s old boys formed a rugby club she became its first secretary.
Tui Mayo loved children and by 1930 was working for a local family as a children’s nurse. She gained her Plunket certificate, then decided to train as a general nurse at Palmerston North Hospital. Registered in June 1936, she quickly gained promotion and continued to add to her qualifications. At the beginning of 1939, newly registered as a maternity nurse, she was appointed a sister at Waipukurau Hospital. That year she took three months’ leave without pay to complete her Karitane training. In July 1940 she was appointed tutor-sister at Waipukurau and the following year took special leave to complete her postgraduate diploma. In May 1944 she returned to Palmerston North Hospital and two years later became senior tutor-sister there. From 1952 she was matron at Opotiki Hospital, retiring in mid 1959.
Mayo then returned to Feilding, and after joining the local St John Ambulance Association committee she helped set up the town’s first Meals on Wheels service. With a small group of helpers she cooked the meals herself during the early years. When Feilding’s St John committee ran their first ‘adult hygiene’ class in 1965, Mayo was the tutor. She was again secretary of the Feilding Agricultural High School Old Pupils’ Association in 1961 and from 1967 to 1971.
In the 1962 local body elections Tui Mayo was elected to the Feilding Borough Council, on which she was to serve for 21 years – the first 12 as its only woman councillor. Always polite, but forthright and immovably determined, she established a reputation as a well-informed councillor who prepared meticulously for meetings and cared passionately about Feilding and its people. Her concern extended to her fellow councillors, to whom she unfailingly offered practical support in times of need.
In her early years on the council she was a member of its housing and parks and reserves committees, perhaps because these were considered more suitable for a woman. After serving two terms, however, she was made a member of the finance, works and water and street-lighting committees. She retained a keen interest in the well-being of the council’s elderly tenants. The development of the town’s parks and reserves was also a passion, reflecting the skill and love she lavished on her own garden.
Mayo became the council’s representative on the Manawatu regional committee of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, and was one of the leaders of a community committee that organised a museum display during the centenary celebration of European settlement in the Feilding district (the Manchester block) in 1974. She also spent years gathering and organising the cataloguing of many of the photographs and other historical material held at the Feilding Public Library.
As chairperson of the council’s library and baths committee, Mayo campaigned strongly for a new library in Feilding. At its official opening in September 1980, one wing of the new building, which featured a fine native-timber ceiling and dado recycled from the town’s former council chamber, was named the Tui Mayo wing – a fitting tribute to her unstinting work for the project. She was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal in 1979 and retired from the council in 1983. Tui Mayo, who had never married, died in Feilding on 8 March 1993, and was cremated at Kelvin Grove cemetery, Palmerston North.