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