Home' Greymouth Star : October 14th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Tuesday, October 14, 2014
he first question which springs
to mind when you go through
the list of community groups and
organisations that Val Williams has
been involved with is, ‘how do you
find time for them all?’ With a smile
and laugh she replies simply: “I don’t do them every
That is probably a good job given that in the 40
years Val has been living in Cobden she has been
an active part of the Greymouth Uniting Church,
Meals on Wheels in Paroa, the Greymouth Cardiac
Club, Greymouth Senior Swimmers Club, Dixon
House, Cobden Playcentre, Cobden Home and
School, Cobden Plunket and the Buller-Westland
Her first foray into voluntary work was helping out
Plunket and the playcentre in the riverside suburb,
both of which she got involved with when her three
children were young — Colleen, Kevin and John.
Val helped out for two or three years as a super visor
at the playcentre when it moved into its new home.
While she was there she also got involved with the
Buller-Westland Playcentre Association, and the
Cobden Home and School Association, and has
been part of both ever since.
It was as a six-year-old child that Val first came
to the West Coast from Christchurch when her
parents decided to take over the Blacks Point Hotel,
near Reefton. Afterwards, her father “chopped and
changed a bit” in terms of his work, moving the
family down to Kotuku to run a farm, and then
taking up a job as a cartage contractor.
Val’s mother, who lived to the grand old age of
96, was a “constant ” in her life along with her seven
siblings. The family finally settled in Greymouth
in 1953-54 where Val spent a year at St Patrick’s
Primary School then three years at St Mary’s High
Her first job was working as a nurse aide for five
years at the old Greymouth Hospital. She had
wanted to be a nurse but had to settle for being a
nurse aide as “I couldn’t pass my exams!”
Then in 1961 she married husband Barry Williams,
gave up the job and moved into the Cobden house
they still call home today.
Val says she was an “off and on” church-goer at
first, but became more regular since the 1970s and
“I always enjoyed meeting people,” she says,
explaining her active involvement in the Uniting
Church’s pastoral care team.
Meals on Wheels has also been a big part of Val’s
life for the past 35 years, something she got involved
with as the ser vice had been on the lookout for
volunteers. It was also a bit of a family affair, as
husband Barry often lent a hand, and her daughter
Colleen and her brother were also involved. A
younger generation of the family also helped Val
with her rounds.
“I used to take my grandson, when he was three,
he used to come along and he called himself the
pudding boy, because he used to carry the puddings.
He used to ask so many questions if they had sticks
and things — ‘ what ’s wrong?, ‘how did that happen?
He was always talking, just like his mother.”
It was a sad event in Val’s life that led her to
get involved with another organisation in the
Greymouth community. After her mother had a
stroke aged 93 she was moved into Dixon House,
where she would spend the next three years before
she died. The house manager Lynne Bowes then
asked Val if she wanted to join as a volunteer.
“I think it was a bit of a saviour after mum went,
I just felt there was a gap, even though I was still
doing other things. I find that the staff are just so
caring and so welcoming when you come in, no
matter what time you go in there.”
Getting older is something that has recently caught
up with Val, who is still battling some soreness from
a right hip replacement a few months ago. However,
she is thankful of getting the operation less than a
year after she first started having problems.
“I could only walk a couple of blocks I was so sore
but once it was done, within the first two weeks I
was walking round.”
Val is confident her new hip will last as long as she
“They ’ll see me out ”, she says with a laugh.
She also swears that her efforts to fight the
advancing years have played a part in her getting
over her operation.
“I think’s that ’s why I recovered so quickly from my
hip replacement, because I went in fit.”
Much of that fitness came from swimming as
part of the Greymouth Senior Swimmers Club, the
exercise club Val took every Monday and Thursday
morning at the aquatic centre.
She also helped keep the older generation fit and
agile through the Greymouth Cardiac Club, which
Val started helping out with in 2006 when her
husband Barry was waiting to have a heart bypass
Despite being in pretty good shape, Val says she is
finding she relies more on Barry than she used to.
“ We do lots of things together now, because what
one could do before sometimes takes two of us. I
couldn’t have done half of what I’ve done without his
support really, and he helps when we go visiting for
the church and things like that.”
All of Val’s years of good ser vice to the multitude
of community organisations around the town were
recently recognised when she was named one of two
recipients of the 2014 Grey District Council Civic
A busy life
Long-time Cobden resident Val Williams has spent much of the past 50 years giving her time to more than 10 community groups
and organisations around Greymouth. BEN AULAKH caught up with the long-time volunteer to find how she finds the time to fit
PICTURE: Ben Aulakh
Long-time Cobden volunteer Val Williams about to head out on her next meals-on -wheels delivery.
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