Life of sacrifice to the ill and elderly
Helen MacKenzie was top flight in her nursing career.
In younger days she was a theatre supervisor at Auckland’s Greenlane Hospital, working with internationally known surgeons Sir Brian Barrett Boyes and Sir Douglas Robb.
About 1964 she bought the lease of Matamata’s Braeside Hospital.
Very career focused, she was married to nursing, although she enjoyed male company.
In retirement from 1999, she was a active person and took up line dancing.
Till her ageing mother’s death, she cared for her in her Matamata home adjoining Braeside Hospital.
She was dedicated poodle, Beau.
In November 1972 she was invested as an associate of the Royal Red Cross for exceptional devotion and competency in actual nursing duties. Helen had been a member of the New Zealand Army Nursing Corps from 1958 to 1968. She was essentially forthright and practical.
She was deeply involved with the betterment of Matamata and donated sufficient money to plant 7000 daffodils in Centennial Drive.
She looked at what was needed and reached into her own pocket. People will always be reminded of Helen at daffodil time.
Helen died peacefully at Rotorua Hospital on Friday April 12, 2013, aged 91.
She had recently returned from a reunion trip to Canterbury, stayed for a few days with a niece in Taupo, then became ill and was admitted to hospital.
Until then she was still driving her Audi car (she had traded in an earlier model three years before). She was described as an elegant, special person. She was the daughter of Annabella and William MacKenzie, the fourth of nine children.
She was educated at Mt Messing School, South Canterbury, one of 24 pupils, then Timaru Girls’ High School.
Helen trained in nursing at Timaru Hospital, graduating in 1944. She did tuberculosis training at Talbot Hospital, Timaru and was a district nurse in Oamaru for five years.
She did general nursing in Canada from 1952 to 1955 and worked in the United Kingdom from 1955 to 1957, travelled briefly to New Zealand then back to Canada as theatre nurse at Joseph Brandt Memorial Hospital in Burlington, Ontario.
Helen returned to New Zealand as head theatre nurse and theatre supervisor in the new heart surgical unit at Greenlane Hospital.
Dr Neil Algar, former Matamata mayor and one of five or six GPs serving the district, was a good friend. He remembers her in those years. ‘‘We worked pretty harmoniously.’’ Braeside was a small hospital, though not a cottage hospital.
‘‘Braeside had the smallest operating room I’ve ever worked in,’’ Dr Algar said.
She took over the job of running and owning a hospital as a business and working in it as a nurse – not uncommon years ago. There were long hours and hard work. Over the years the roles of the hospital changed and she coped with that. It became more or less a geriatric hospital. Eileen Weal was one of Helen’s staff. She describes herself as ‘‘one of the privileged ones’’ and her story starts with a telephone call many years ago from Helen.
‘‘I believe that you have done some nursing. Would you be interested in nursing again?’’
to her white miniature
Eileen affirmed. Helen: ‘‘Can you start tomorrow?’’
And thus began a 25-year working relationship. That was the way many started.
‘‘She was well respected by all the doctors. We became an extended family working for the good of our residents. It was very special,’’ Eileen said.
Rest in peace: Helen MacKenzie pictured here in 2011 with her beloved poodle Beau.