Croquet, Young Entrepreneurs and Tea in Missoula’s Sister City


This week I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon having lunch and playing croquet with John Wall. As noted in my last post, John is a retired educator from “Palmy” who is quite active in the community and is a member of the New Zealand Croquet Council. He’s been quite supportive of the Sister City program and has visited Missoula a couple of times.

We had a lovely lunch at his home, and he showed me several of his awards and artwork, some of which was created by Monte Dolack. Originally from England, he moved to New Zealand with his wife Allison in 1966, three days after they got married. Both John and Allison – who just recently passed away following a brief illness – gave much to this community. Allison was a probation officer and served as a member of the Palmerston North City Council from 1992 and was Deputy Mayor from 2001-04. Much like Missoula, Palmy has 15 elected councilors from different neighborhoods plus an elected mayor, who serves as a voting member of the council. The deputy mayor is an elected councilor appointed to the position as second-in-command.

Garry O’Neil & John Wall – As a member of the New Zealand Croquet Council, John knows a thing or two about the game.

After lunch, John and I went to the croquet club, where I met many of the members who play at least weekly. The draw for the afternoon put four players on each of six lawns. To win the game of croquet, your goal is to be the first on your team of two to get your colored ball through the hoop. You play six hoops twice so the first team to seven wins the game. John and I partnered together against retired educator Garry O’Neill (spelled just like my parents’ hometown of O’Neill, Nebraska) and stylist Lorraine Pickett, who was quite good at the game. John taught me how the game works, how to hold my body and hit the ball, and how the sport is organized in Palmy, all this prior to a 10-day croquet tournament he was hosting and coordinating in just a couple of days.

Following our game, we adjourned to the social hall for afternoon tea, and I had the opportunity to visit with a number of Palmy’s distinguished retirees, including Vince Neall, one of New Zealand’s leading volcanologists. Have you ever met a volcanologist before? It was quite an interesting afternoon, filled with great conversation and lots of learning. John Wall was an exceptional host!

John taught me how the game works, how to hold my body and hit the ball.

Two days later I had the opportunity to serve as a business mentor for the Lion Foundation YES (Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme) program. It’s essentially a government-funded education program for secondary (high) schools in New Zealand, where groups of students must develop start-up companies, serve as directors, build and follow their business plans, and develop products and services, which they market and sell. It’s a year-long business education tract intended to develop the entrepreneurial spirit and skillset of New Zealand secondary school students.

On this particular day, the program assembled 50 business leaders to meet with about 150 students from 8-10 area schools for an hour and half at Massey University’s Japanese Lecture Hall. Later in the year several groups will receive funding to develop their businesses and enter them into a competition that runs locally, nationally, and across the South Pacific. Last year the program served 3,500 students nationwide participate. On a local level, Vision Manawatu is responsible for the program.

I wonder what business education looks like at Missoula County schools and if students have an opportunity like that to actually build a business and compete in a competition? The University of Montana Business School has been hosting the annual John Ruffatto Business Plan Competition for 24 years. According to the UM website, more than 60 of those competitors have turned into real-life businesses. I believe we will see two of them open in Downtown Missoula this year.

Back in Palmerston North, Tom, Maddy and I were invited to the home of Sen and Mamta Gupta, an Indian family that has lived in New Zealand for about a decade. Tom and Sen are co-teaching an electronics engineering class together, and Sen has been at Massey for four years following a teaching stint at UCOL Polytech College, one of four colleges here in the area. Mamta works in preschool education after spending some time with a catering business. She made an incredibly interesting and scrumptious dinner with some of the most amazing varieties of meats, spices and desserts.

We were also joined by Donald and Robyn Bailey, as well as Jane and Martin Goodyer. Both Donald and Jane are faculty members in the School of Engineering and Technology (SEAT) at Massey University. Martin serves as the Commercialization Manager for the BCC (Bio Commerce Center). I am hoping to hook up with Martin to learn more about the area’s business incubator and tech transfer organization next week!

Until then, may you enjoy the arrival of spring in Montana, while we look to the onset of fall in New Zealand.



Linda McCarthy has served as Executive Director of the Missoula Downtown Association since 1999. Prior to that, she served as a Sports Information Director for Grizzly Athletics for 10 years. She is a two-time graduate of The University of Montana, where her husband, Tom Gallagher, is a professor in the Applied Computing and Electronics Program at Missoula College. Her daughter, Maddy Gallagher, is an outgoing and kind 11-year-old who has spent all of her school years at Lewis & Clark Elementary. They can be reached via email at: