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When Glenis Stevens left her home for the last time on Friday, November 25, her husband, trainer Mike Stevens, would normally have been in the car with her. After 46 years of marriage Glenis and Mike were rarely apart. "We were inseparable," Mike said. "Everything we did, we loved doing it together." Even shopping, which Glenis loved, but Mike didn't, was done together.
However, that day he was flat out making hay at their 87 acre training property near Ashworths Beach in North Canterbury.
So Glenis headed off alone on the trip to collect their granddaughter, Courtney, aged 10, from the North New Brighton School, then return to the farm before attending a family party at daughter Jo's home in New Brighton to celebrate grandson Hayden's 14th birthday.
A short time later tragedy struck when Glenis was involved in a head-on car crash on State Highway 1, near Waikuku. She died at the crash scene, only a few kilometres from her home. She was 66. The driver of the other vehicle suffered minor injuries and was taken to Christchurch Hospital.
Mike and Glenis met at the Waimairi Surf Life Saving Club, when she was 15 and he 18. It wasn't love at first sight Mike said, but it was love after their first kiss. Five years later they married and in 1967 set up a panel-beating business in New Brighton. They raised three daughters, Jo, Toni and Anita, and have three grandchildren, Courtney, Hayden and Wade.
Mike also became a Christchurch City Councillor for six years in 1989. Unfortunately Mike and Glenis' business was damaged in the September 4, 2010 earthquake, but repairs enabled them to carry on. However, after far more serious damage, sustained during the February 22 quake earlier this year, the building was unable to be repaired and they decided to close their business down.
They shared many interests including swimming, surf lifesaving, whitebaiting, playing cards, rugby and racing standardbreds, most of which Mike trained. Aithough West Melton trainer, Robert Anderson, a good friend for many years, has also trained a few for them and he has Mike's four-win trotter Dragons Den, in work at the moment.
Over the years Mike and Glenis owned many nice horses, including Glenroydon (10 wins), Shantahlia Image (7 wins), Placid Bill (5 wins), Simon's Sister (5 wins), Hayden John (3 wins), Sunny Ilsa (2 wins), Paul Patch (3 wins) and the present race team, Su El (1 win), Dragons Den (4 wins) and Tomsincharge (1 win). They also owned the former top trotting mare Ilsa Voss for a time, breeding three foals from her, Isla Hanover, Top Voss and Magic Choice (4 wins). "We have been lucky to have had so many good horses," Mike said.
However their favourite was Smooth Dominion, which was the rank outsider but ran a close second for driver Robert Anderson in the 1997 NZ Cup won by Iraklis. "He would have to be our favourite because he was the best," Mike said. The excitement of having a runner in the New Zealand Cup was magnified many times over for Glenis and Mike with such a close run to the finish and only half a head between Iraklis and Smooth Dominion on the line.
After the race they were interviewed by Sheldon Murtha for Trackside. He asked them how it felt to watch their horse run so close in the big race? Unfortunately they couldn't answer his question, because they hadn't seen the finish. The excitement of the race, and Glenis's unique, exuberant cheering style, caused her to faint right at the crucial time, and so they missed Smooth Dominion's finest moment. "She dropped like a stone," Mike said. Later, in true Stevens style, they celebrated with a 'Smooth Dominion ran second in the NZ Cup party' which was a big success.
Glenis and Mike travelled to many racetracks around New Zealand together with their horses. A trip to Kaikoura in October this year brought a win for them with outsider Su El, who was last on the turn but stormed home to rock the tote paying $111.40 and $20.20. Mike said they also enjoyed taking horses to the West Coast during the Christmas holiday circuit there. "It is a great place the Coast, and the Coasters make it special," he said. "We loved going there."
Although they hadn't had the right horse to campaign on the Coast circuit for the last two or three years, Mike and Glenis had been hoping to take Su El there this year. A trip has not yet been ruled out. If the Elsu-Made To Order mare can win another race before the Westport meeting she would be eligible for the Westport Cup, a race Glenis would have loved to see her win.
A celebration of Glenis's life was held at the Sefton Hall in North Canterbury on December 1, with a big crowd of about 500 family and friends attending, and many of them wishing to give oral tributes. "There were that many people who wanted to speak we went for nearly two and a half hours, but if everyone who wanted to speak had done so it would have been much longer," Mike said. "It was a real credit to who she was. Everybody loved her because she was so happy."
Mike said he asked people to donate money to the North New Brighton School Swimming Pool Club, to repair earthquake damage done to the pool, instead of buying flowers. Mike's father attended the school, so did he and his three daughters, and now his grandchildren also go to school there. More than $6000 has already been donated in Glenis's honour for the project.
Credit: Shelley Caldwell writing in HRWeekly 21Dec11