Profile: JAn and wallace rae

Paraparaumu  |  75 and 79 years old

Seven years ago, Jan and Wallace Rae left their home of 46 years and moved to Paraparaumu, a town located about 55 kilometers(34 miles) north of Wellington. Their move was motivated in part by wanting to be closer to their three children and to help with their four young grandchildren.

Hoki, a former social worker, and Owen, a former police officer, have been married for 69 years. They have four children, 14 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. Both are members of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple; they were labor missionaries who, in the 1950s, established the temple, the first Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Southern Hemisphere.

Owen retired from the police force in 1988 and has filled the past 35 years with leadership positions at a variety of organizations: Te Rūnanga o Kirikiriroa Charitable Trust, Te Kōhao Health, Te Ngā Rau Tatangi (Māori Housing Foundation), Ngāti Kahungunu Inc., Ngāti Kahungunu ki Kiririoa, among others. He also served as President of the New Zealand Labour Missionaries Association from 1999 to 2017.

Although the Purcells are slowing down as they near 90, they still keep close tabs on the causes that mean the most to them. They live mostly independently in their home in Hamilton, although their daughters periodically stay with them to help out. Typical days are spent with family, friends, and the organizations they helped build over the years.

Hoki, who still drives, jokes that she is “on call” for Rauawaawa, ferrying other seniors to doctors appointments and activities. She has found purpose in the work she and Owen have tirelessly supported within the Māori community. “We love and appreciate bringing good to others,” she says. “That’s the most important thing — what can we do to make the lives of others better? How can we enrich one another? What do we need to do?”


A family portrait from the 1960s with the couple and their four children, Jessica, Merrill, Roland, and Kathy.

Hoki Purcell shares memorabilia, including an album recorded by the Te Arohanui Māori Company of New Zealand, a Māori performing arts group, of which she was a member.

The Purcells eat lunch in their dining room.

Preparing breakfast and lunch for herself and her family, who are all home because of the pandemic

Preparing breakfast and lunch for herself and her family, who are all home because of the pandemic

Claudia in her office

Claudia in her office

“Healthcare is very expensive in Chile, and when retirement comes incomes decrease, so it’s necessary to have a lot of savings to face health problems when you get old. You need to have good health insurance and life insurance.”

Mementos from Owen Purcell’s career with the New Zealand Police.

Hoki Purcell sorts through tablecloths, which she uses for decorating event spaces for underserved members of the community.

The view from their home in the
suburbs of Hamilton.

The Purcells visit the Hamilton
New Zealand Temple.

Owen Purcell visits nonprofit Māori-led health organization Te Kōhao Health, where he served as director for many years.

Visiting a marker commemorating the Labor Missionary Building Programme.