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Crowds of Rotarians, former Rotarians and lots of friends and supporters of Plimmerton Rotary converged at the Lodge on Paekakariki Hill Road for what turned out to be a fabulous celebratory evening. 

Drinks were waiting at the bar, nibbles were passed around and many, many old relationships were renewed.

At 6.30, emcee Dexter delivered a Mihimihi, thanking everyone and providing a welcome to the auspicious night, the celebration and culmination of 50 years of service in the Porirua and Plimmerton area for the Rotary Club of Plimmerton.

A Porirua College Barber Shop Quartet led a rendering of the National Anthem in both Maori and English, after which Dexter introduced President Denise, Plimmerton Rotary's first President of Cook Island / Welsh heritage. 

President Denise welcomed special guests, Past District Governors Judy Bain, Graeme Blick and Martin Garcia, as well as Marie Press representing her late husband and former DG, Graeme Press.  She tendered apologies from the current DG, Marilyn Stevens who had left early for the RI Convention in Melbourne but who had conveyed her best wishes to everyone for an enjoyable evening of celebration and recognition. Angus Langbein, our only charter member, and his son and daughter, Lachlan and Beth, were also warmly welcomed, as were Mayor Anita Baker and former mayor and our keynote speaker, Nick Leggett. As a welcome addition to our party, Denise welcomed the seven Rotarians from Wisconsin in District 6270 visiting on a Friendship Exchange, as were long-time friends of the Blicks who were on their way to the Conference. Banners were exchanged. 

The Barber Shop Quartet entertained us with some waiata items and Denise recognised that each of the 100 people attending was important to our Event 50 Celebrations. He aha te mea ni o ta ao, he tangata, he tangata, he tangata - what is most important? It is people, it is people. She shared a whakatauki, a proverb that talks about being humble so that others will talk of your deeds. She encouraged everyone to look at their programmes where an event had been listed beside the name of each President over the 50 years. There were many more, she said, but like the kumara, it is not for us to say how great we have been over the years. 

By this time we were running a bit behind the programme so the staff at The Lodge shepherded us towards the buffet where we filled our plates and returned to enjoy the main course. 

After dinner, four former presidents shared reflections from their time in the Club, Wendy Betteridge, Phillip Reidy, Graeme Blick,  and John Barber, our longest serving member. 

Between these two reflections, President Denise awarded a sapphire pin to Barbara Nichols' PHF. Members had been asked to nominate someone in the community deserving of this award and Barbara's name had come up many times. Somewhat taken aback, Barb managed to thank members for the honour in a typically self-deprecating fashion.

Our keynote speaker, Nick Leggett followed these reflections and spoke from the heart about his association with Plimmerton Rotary over very many years. Nick was born, raised and educated in the Porirua Basin. Interested in civic and community affairs from a young age, Nick was elected to the Porirua City Council at the age of 19 and became Mayor twelve years after that from 2010-2016. Nick’s  engagement with Plimmerton Rotary goes back at least 25 years. He has always enjoyed the friendship, the service and the characters of the Club and agreed to speak to honour that service and the huge benefits it has brought our communities over the decades.

President Denise thanked Nick for his heartfelt words and presented him with a Paul Harris Fellowship Award. Nick spoke briefly of what the honour meant to him and has since responded with these words:

'Firstly, congratulations on a marvellously organised event last week. It was a fitting tribute to Plimmerton Rotary and all who have passed through the organisation - and the work done over 50 years.  

'I want to thank you for inviting me to speak also. It was moving for me to be able to recount the work of the club and I appreciated being able to do that.  

'I also wish to convey my deep thanks for the award of the Paul Harris Fellow. It was incredibly humbling to have that honour from such a significant club in our community. I am well aware of its significance within the movement, and to be frank I am not sure I measure up, but what a lovely honour! Please thank all members of the committee for me'. 

At this point, Denise asked former DG Julie, representing the Friendship Exchange visitors, to say a 'few words'. Julie led the team from Wisconsin while Chris and Enne-Marie led the New Zealand contingent. She entertained us with lots of anecdotes and paraphernalia from Wisconsin.

Denise mentioned a few of the plans that members had come up with to memorialise our 50th year and asked incoming President Tania and President Nominee Colin to say a few words about future  planning. 

She went on to outline one of the future plans which is to establish a Global Auction of shirt number 658 donated by Benjamin Andrew Stokes OBE, an English International cricketer who is the captain of the England Test team. The donated shirt comes from the 2015 Ashes series where Ben made two half-centuries, took eight wickets and held six catches. England won the Ashes, beating the Australians 4-1.

And the President hadn't finished making her awards and called up Phillip Reidy to accept a PHF with two sapphires for his services to the Plimmerton Rotary Club. Phillip volunteered and took the vision of Event 50 in all its entirety, deisnged the framework, branding and remained loyal to the purpose of the celebration, 'Remember, Recognise and Engage' THe provided a solid ear and reassuring presence to Denise for which she was truly thankful. He managed to donate many volunteer hours alongside his other commitments and a bout of ill health to realise and launch the Event 50 activities, the first being the special Gala Evening.  Phillip responded in typically modest fashion.

Running very late into the event, members and guests enjoyed dessert, mixed and mingled and concluded with a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne. President Denise concluded with a Poroporoake farewell and blessing towards the next twenty-five years. 

Oh what a night! 

A very special 50th Celebration - 23 May 2023

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