“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” was the adage Marie Wilkinson had in mind when she became a member of the Order of St John.
The Mataura woman is now the recipient of the organisation’s Ultra Long Service Medal, joining 94 co-recipients throughout New Zealand in the length of her service counting.
Her father was the first aid person while working as a miner in Denniston and she grew up surrounded by St John members.
“He had been with St John and my two sisters and two brothers all belonged,” Mrs Wilkinson said.
“Then I met my husband and that was his thing too, so in 1965 I gave up and joined.”
Many days were spent with first aid equipment ready at the side of netball courts, car races and other events.
She also trained young people and gave lectures on home nursing.
While working as a teacher she did double duty as the school’s first aider.
“One of the girls used to call me the bleeder-leader, which was hilarious.”
St John remained part of her family’s life over the years.
A highlight was working at the Queenstown first aid station over Christmas and Easter in the days when the town was smaller and had only two medical providers.
“We’d combine it with a family holiday.”
The organisation also brought a new family member into her life when her son married the woman he met during a first aid course.
Reflecting on her time with the organisation, she was surprised at how fast it had gone.
“It’s just flown past, really,” she said.
Mrs Wilkinson had been made a Commander of St John in 1997.
She was continuing her work as a Hokonui area committee member.
“We’re involved in getting the new station built. We look after what is needed to keep the ambulance station going,” she said.
She enjoyed being part of the St John organisation.
“You’ve got to do something to be part of your community.”
“If you don’t go, who else is going to?”
It was the first year Ultra Long Service Medals, which required a minimum 50 years of service, had been awarded.
Mrs Wilkinson received her medal alongside three other Southlanders at Invercargill’s First Church.
“It was lovely to get it in a church setting.
“It really felt like being in the right place for the right reason.
“We were piped in.
“It was quite something.”