Lilly Sørensen

Lilly and Tage Sørensen

When Lilly Kofoed walked down the aisle 
of her home church in Skævinge, north Sjælland to marry 
Tage Sørensen on the 10th June 1945, she had no idea 
that her future life was to be lived first in Africa and then in 
New Zealand.

Life in Copenhagen

It was war time in occupied Denmark, when Lilly started her nursing 
training at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen. The following year 
she met Tage Sørensen, a trained soap master who came to 
Copenhagen to be an actor and like so many actors was out of work. 
To support himself he delivered freshly baked bread in the early 
morning and cleaned the bakery later. It was an existence.

On the 4th of May 1945, in the early evening, the Second 
World War ended. Tage went to the nurse’s residence to collect Lilly. 
Still in her uniform and wooden clogs, she and Tage joined what seemed like the 
whole of Copenhagen, on the streets celebrating their newly declared 
freedom. Suddenly there was hope in the world. Tage and Lilly 
discovered they were in love and decided to get married.

Africa first overseas experience

Lilly and Tage wanted to travel and explore the world. Their first child was 
born the following year in December 1946, but their desire to 
experience life outside of Denmark remained. On the 24th 
October 1949 the Sørensen family of three and a new baby on the way, 
set off for Windhoek, South West Africa (now known as Namibia) where 
Tage was to establish a soap factory for a Dane. The family stayed in 
Windhoek for 10 years. When the time came to leave they decided not 
to return to Denmark.

New Zealand the next experience in life

The Sørensen family arrived in New Zealand with 3 children 
aged 13, 9 and 4 months on the 24th October 1959.

In Auckland their agent met them as they knew no one in this country. 
Lilly remembers the day well. They heard people telling them it was a 
wonderful sunny day but coming from Africa they were not particularly 
impressed with the NZ sun. A freighter had carried all their 
belongings including their recently purchased car for which 
to their surprise, a £250 import tax was required.

They were taken to the Criterion Hotel in Otahuhu, close to the Taniwha Soap 
Factory. Lilly remembers the hotel being very pleasant and located in the 
shopping centre. After settling in the family walked to look at the 
Otahuhu Shopping Centre and found all the shops closed. It was Labour 
weekend. On the street they saw NZ Herald boxes holding newspapers 
and a slot to place the money. This amused them, having just left 
Africa, where every thing was under lock and key.

Their first day was very memorable.

Their car allowed them to explore Auckland. They saw the inner city, 
the harbour bridge, the pride of Auckland and continued through the 
western suburbs. After 10 years of dry and brown Africa, the greenery was 

Full board, for a family of four and a baby at the Criterion Hotel, was £8 
a day. Tage’s wage at the Taniwha Soap Factory was £13 a week. 
They needed to take action and decided to contact the Danish 
Society in Auckland. Mr Svend Marquart, the President of the Danish 
Society, visited them and within days found a large spare room in an 
elderly woman’s home nearby. Lilly had to cook on a primus stove in 
the back garden for those weeks. It was as Lilly says “better 
than paying the hotel”. Shortly afterwards the family shifted 
into a rented flat in Otahuhu. The job at the Taniwha Soap Factory 
could not fulfil Tage. The following month he saw an advertisement 
for an assistant chemist at the Waitomo Cement Factory in Te Kuiti.

This position included a house. Tage obtained the job and in December 
1959 the whole family shifted to Te Kuiti. It was a small quiet town 
with houses that looked half-asleep as the Holland blinds in the 
front rooms were neatly pulled half way down the window.

Lilly and Tage wondered about their first Christmas in a new town 
and country where they knew no one. Lilly had taken the baby to the 
Plunket Nurse who arranged the carol-playing brass band truck to stop 
outside their house. It was a heart-warming experience for the family.
Then they meet a fellow Dane.

Lilly’s use of English was adequate, but the New Zealand pronunciation
and use of English was different from Windhoek. For Christmas she asked the 
butcher for a duck, but he heard her say “dog”.

On another occasion, a New Zealand family invited them for “tea” 
at 5pm. Lilly made sure that the children were well fed prior to the 
visit, so they did not disgrace themselves eating too many cakes. 
Lilly and Tage were surprised when they were asked to sit at the 
dining table, where a New Zealand roast dinner was served with a sweet 
dessert to follow.

Within a few weeks, Tage realised the job at the cement works was not for him. 
Again he searched for jobs. Tage obtained a position with Frank Stephens 
Pharmaceuticals in Glen Innes, Auckland. They manufactured tablets and creams. 
There was no house with this position, but there was a company car.

Back in Auckland

So after six months in Te Kuiti, the Sørensen family returned to Auckland, 
renting a flat in Rockfield Road, Penrose. This was a good move and life became more 
settled. The Danish Society was growing in numbers with so many immigrants arriving 
and it became part of their life.

It was at this time, that Tage saw the possibility of building his own house, as 
was common practice in New Zealand at that time. They purchased a section for £1100 
in Ellerslie Heights. In the weekends and after work Tage would be working on the section, 
digging it out and laying the foundation. He was helped by their son who loved 
working on the section.

Tage Sørensen, the entrepreneur

Through work contacts Tage was asked to work with Schwarzkopf hair 
colouring and so set up a business, International Laboratories. This he 
did privately and in the weekends. This business grew and became his 
full-time focus. He found business partners and established a new 
company, Danford Laboratories. Tage began making shampoos, skin creams, 
bubble bath, lotions and talcum powder on contract for other firms. 
Danford Laboratories continued to grow. Another partner joined the 
business to market the new line of products, their own brand of 
toiletries and cosmetics under the brand name “Belina”. 
A fourth partner, Knud Kristensen a builder who owned the factory 
premises, joined the business.

It was the late 1960s, ten years after the Sørensens had arrived in New 
Zealand, the business was growing and import restrictions were 
working in NZ small business’s favour. They needed to expand 
and decided to build their own factory in Mangere which Knud 
Kristensen, built. Those were exciting days and at the height of the 
business there were 30 people employed in the factory.

At home, Lilly looked after the growing family of now four children. 
A new baby daughter was born to the family in 1962 here in Auckland. 
Lilly coped with a new country, a new baby, and running the household. 
Later when the children were at school, she was the wages clerk in the 
business and at age 45, she even obtained her driving licence.

Looking back

On looking back at their early life in New Zealand, Lilly has no regrets. Tage 
used his entrepreneurial skills to establish a good and lasting 
business. She supported him all the way. In their social life, there 
were plenty of opportunities for Tage to express his thespian skills, 
through the Danish Society’s “revys”, and theatre 
and social evenings. They gained a circle of good friends. Lilly 
feels they became Danish here in New Zealand, as so many of their 
friends were Danish.

Tage retired at age 61, because of his health. This gave him time, among 
other interests, to express his creative skills in painting, which 
is decorating Lilly’s home. Tage and Lilly celebrated their 
60th wedding anniversary in 2005 with their large extended family and 
friends. It was a very festive occasion. Tage became increasingly frail 
and in 2009 at age 88 passed away.

Some of the highlights of coming to New Zealand for Lilly have been to see her 
children and grandchildren grow up and develop abilities in this 

Lilly puts it this way “My eyes are failing now, but it is up to me how I 
look at life and I have seen it positively even in tough times.”

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