TOP VOL­UN­TEER

Whanganui Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - By LIN FER­GU­SON

Betty Simp­son is a softly spo­ken woman who cares about oth­ers, lis­tens to oth­ers, and is al­ways there to help.

Now 86, Betty — who was awarded the Dame of Grace of the Or­der of St John in 2006 — has been a stal­wart and ded­i­cated vol­un­teer with St John for 40 years.

Re­cently she lost the sight in her left eye but that hasn’t stopped her.

“I can see quite well with my right eye and I’m still al­lowed to drive.”

Sit­ting around is not for Betty. “No if you sit around you think about your­self too much. It’s far bet­ter to get out and be in­volved.”

And Betty af­ter her many years of ac­tive work with St John, in­clud­ing train­ing youth vol­un­teers, is still an in­te­gral part of the team now help­ing with hun­dreds of do­nated books that pour in for the St John book sales held five times a year.

“We have a very busy team and a huge garage filled with boxes of books. That’s a lot of sort­ing and get­ting or­gan­ised. I’ve worked on 121 book sales so far.”

Through St John Betty also pro­vides pas­toral care to mem­bers who have be­come ill or have suf­fered the death of a spouse. “Re­ally I just lis­ten. Peo­ple in grief just need to talk. I like to take them bak­ing and just sit with them.”

Un­til re­cently Betty was a na­tional judge of cake dec­o­rat­ing com­pe­ti­tions.

“I can’t judge any more be­cause of my eye. I don’t ice cakes like I did any more ei­ther. Ic­ing is very tricky and I re­ally don’t have the sight to do it now. I cer­tainly can­not be a judge any more be­cause I can’t see any in­tri­cate de­tails now.”

Her life has al­ways fo­cused on the big three — her fam­ily, St John and nurs­ing.

Betty was a ded­i­cated nurse at Whanganui hospi­tal for 30 years spe­cial­is­ing in ma­ter­nity and Kar­i­tane care.

As one of St John’s longest­serv­ing vol­un­teers, Betty has made dozens of dear friends along the way. She still re­mem­bers mov­ing to Whanganui from Nel­son in 1951 to marry Ed­ward (Ted) Simp­son, a sur­gi­cal boot maker, and how much she hated Whanganui.

“I found it very dif­fi­cult to set­tle in, it took me years.

“But now I love be­ing here. It’s a won­der­ful place.”

Betty said youth ev­ery­where are very im­por­tant.

“The St John youth vol­un­teers are great. They’re our fu­ture so we train them to be good cit­i­zens. We have some very fine kids com­ing through now. They are be­ing taught the ba­sics and how im­por­tant it is to be good peo­ple them­selves. I’m very proud of them.”

Also a long­time mem­ber of St James Pres­by­te­rian Church in Whanganui East, Betty helps out wher­ever she can. Once a month the church has a lun­cheon club where older mem­bers go out to lunch at a lo­cal restau­rant.

“I’m one of the driv­ers and I go and pick two or three up who don’t drive.”

Last but far from least is Betty’s love for her gar­den.

“I have al­ways loved my gar­den but I can’t do so much in it any more.”

As well she en­joys her glasshouse filled with pot­ted cy­cla­mens.

“I grow them all from seed and I love them all they are so beau­ti­ful.”

PHOTO / LIN FER­GU­SON

Whanganui’s Betty Simp­son is an Or­der of St John Dame of Grace.

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