WI bastion ‘shocked’ to receive of merit



Avis Rishworth was brought to shocked tears when she realised she had been named in this year’s Queen’s Birthday New Zealand Order of Merit honours.

“I was in complete disbelief, really,” Mrs Rishworth said.

“People who I haven’t even dealt with in years are contacting me to offer congratulations.”

The Lawrence resident has spent more than 45 years serving in the New Zealand Federation of Women’s Institutes at local and national levels.

She is being recognised for services to women.

Mrs Rishworth said she thought it was a joke when she first received an email from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy in April, saying she had been nominated for the honour.

“It looked like spam . . . I almost deleted it.”

On second examination, she decided it must be the genuine article and did not to delete it.

Next came the struggle to conform with official protocol, by keeping the news secret.

“But I had to send the documents back with a signature, which I had never done before. I needed help.”

When Mrs Rishworth asked her son, Bryce Rishworth, to help, she was reticent about revealing her news.

“He said, ‘we’ve all known for months, Mum’.”

The next order of business was making sure the paperwork was approved by the Queen herself.

“I joked that there was a chance she might not accept me.”

Once everything was official, family and friends did not know how to approach their old friend, newly elevated in status.

“My kids have been calling me Lady Avis .. I’ve had a friend ask if she needs to bow and scrape before me.

“It’s all nonsense, I’m still the same person.”

That person went into volunteering with no goal in mind aside from “helping the community.”

On top of her involvement with women’s institutes, Mrs Rishworth has been a stalwart of Plunket, Brownies, the Red Cross, the Clutha Agriculture Development Board and more.

She said none of this activity would have been possible without the support of her family.