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Seniors have moment in spotlight

Mayor Lyn Patterson presenting Leslie Hurst with the Senior Citizen of the Year award. PHOTO/ MARY ARGUE

Decades of dedication were recognised at the Senior Person of the Year awards on Saturday morning, acknowledging those who have held our communities together for generations.

This year’s winner Lesley Hurst said she felt like “a bit of a fraud” when accepting her award. She was anything but.

The judging panel comprised Wairarapa’s three mayors – Lyn Patterson, Greg Lang, and Alex Beijen, who said Hurst had been a committed volunteer for many years, involved with Age Concern and Wellington Free Ambulance, to name two.

“Her very active involvement in the community, care and concern for people especially our seniors, made her a standout candidate.”

Her passionate for people with low mobility or dementia and was highlighted by her work with the Wairarapa Care Network.

“Lesley is someone who has a strong focus on community and well-being, and this is very evident in her voluntary service to the community.”

Hurst said she was speechless about winning the award when she heard what the other nominees had done.

“I run an exercise class for Age Concern from 55-year-olds through to those in their early 90s.

“They absolutely amaze and inspire me, people up to 93, I feel a bit of a fraud to have this award but thank you very much.”

Runner-up Luther Toloa was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for services to the Pacific community in June this year.

Pasifika o Wairarapa Trust said at the time of the award that he had worked with the community for decades.

The judges said Toloa was a founding member of the Pacifica o Wairarapa Trust, established during the covid-19 pandemic to address social disparity and the lack of services for Pasifika.

“He facilitated communication with DHB to encourage culturally appropriate engagement and increase of vaccinations among Pasifika,” the judges said.

He was also a strong advocate for the new netball facility on Colombo Rd.

The second runner-up was Francis Reiri-Smith, lovingly known by many as Nanny Francis.

Reiri-Smith was recognised for her “tireless” work in the Wairarapa community, and with Maori.

The judges said her work had included membership of Te Pae Oranga [Iwi justice Panel], Wairarapa Women’s Welfare league, and Kuia Carterton District Council.

They said she had supported Maori Mental Health Tautoko Ora Wananga and had advocated for Te Reo Maori.

Patterson announced the recipient of Masterton’s Age Concern Special Mention for Community Service as the Rev Hariata Tahana, known by most as Aunty Sally.

She said Tahana had always been a strong voice for Maori.

Patterson said Tahana provided support and guidance to many people in our community, often through Rangimarie Marae.

“Aunty Sally is always there to help grieving families with tangi or by liaising with police to enable a smoother transition to get their loved one home.”

She said Tahana had been involved with many civic openings and dedications and had served on boards offering support. For Carterton, Lang recognised long-serving minister, the Rev Maki Lauvi.

“Rev Lauvi has shared his language with the community, especially our youth. He supports many, lending a sympathetic ear and encouragement. He is an advocate of keeping the Samoan culture alive with language, tradition and faith.”

Lang said Lauvi’s kind, gentle, caring nature was an inspiration to all.

Beijen recognised both Collene and Ken Paddon, longstanding Martinborough community members.

He said they had been involved in the establishment of the Martinborough Bowling Club, taking on many roles within the club’s life.

“They always work to ensure people are made to feel part of the community and both support social connection through sports and activities.”

Beijen said the Paddons involvement with the club had enabled many to find friendship, using sport as a way to enjoy the company of others.

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