Like anyone who knew Nell, she was my friend. My interest in Healeys began a few years after the Club was formed. By that time she was a fixture and, she was our President in 1980. And what a larger-than-life character she was. In those days we knew Nell as Nell Holdstock and, that year, Mark Donaldson came into her life on a trip to Australia and New Zealand that she took with a number of Healey people who travelled down under to meet the Aussies and Kiwis.
If you attended Snowmass in 1982, the Kiwis returned in force, led by Mark, who was the founder of the New Zealand Healey club ten years earlier. By that time Mark and Nell were a couple, and in May 1983 we came to know Nell as Nell Donaldson.
Nell didn’t speak much about her background, but she was born in the United States, lived in California, and came to Canada in 1970, along with her husband, daughter Dana, and son Jamie, and her 1962 tri-carb that she purchased new off the showroom floor in Pasadena. They settled into her home on Point Grey Road. In those days, her home was a focal point for our club, and a place to attend our club Christmas parties. It was also a place where the coffee was always on. As a symbol of her independence during those days, in 1979 Nell and Mike Hall drove across North America and then travelled across the Atlantic to Britain with Mike’s BJ8 and together they drove it to, amongst other places, the Abingdon assembly plant where her car was built and where MG-B’s were still being assembled!
The first time I ever heard the expression “BJ9” was from Nell. In fact Nell is the lady who coined the phrase in the mid seventies when she was on the executive.
In my mind, Nell pressed our little club to carry its weight along with Pacific Centre, Oregon and Washington, and was a driving force in encouraging us to host our first West Coast Meet at Whistler in 1986. I think that is one of her legacies because, today, our club, while remaining happily independent, carries its weight with the other clubs.
Nell left for New Zealand in 1984 with Mark, but returned for Whistler in 1986. That was the last Meet she attended in North America, and she went on to become a Life Member of the New Zealand club.
During her active days in the Club Nell donated two cups to the club. One of these, of which today we call Nell’s Cup, is currently awarded annually. The other has been lost in the mists of time but, hopefully, as was her wish, will be re-discovered some day,.
Karen and I stayed with Nell during our first trip to New Zealand in 2001. Nell was so gracious and welcoming. We had a wonderful time with her.
Karen and I managed to make it once again to New Zealand in March and April this year, with Brian and Carole, and there was no way that I would be there and not see Nell. We knew from what Mark had told us that Nell was in failing health but, when we had lunch with her and Mark, it was still the Nell we all came to know when she was living in Vancouver. The same sense of humour, the same laugh, and the same curiosity about everyone and everything and what had happened in their lives. And the best part was she was happy. But it was bittersweet, because we all knew it would be the last time we would see her. I won’t forget that last hug. She was always good at that.
Nell, you made your mark in life, you were a faithful friend during thick and thin, thank you for all you did and, if I can say for all your friends here, thank you!
Nell passed away peacefully on August 9, 2013 at her Ardmore home in Auckland, New Zealand. Nell is survived by her daughter Dana Marks (Whittier, CA), son Jamie Christo (Vancouver, BC), sister Amy Silverberg (Eugene, OR), three grand-children and, of course, Mark .
Nell Donaldson (Holdstock) was one of the very early AHOABC members. She played a large part in the early development of the club and served as Secretary, Vice President and President in 1978 - 1980. Nell left for New Zealand in the early 80's but presented two cups to the club before she left. One was for the member who did the most for the club in a year and is awarded annually. The second was for the nicest car and was to be awarded annually. It, unfortunately, has been lost over time.
August 2nd 1932 - August 9th 2013