Helping people is an honour

By Mark Story

Former St John paramedic and Justice of the Peace Peter Gibson was "quite shocked" at his Queen's Service Medal for services to the community - despite a record of serving the region since his teenage years.

While he knew about his nomination via a friend, the letter of confirmation a few weeks later still came as a surprise.

"You do these community things for so long they just become part of who you are," Mr Gibson said. "I didn't think I would ever end up with this sort of recognition."

The Napier 76-year-old began his enduring tenure with St John as a 14-year-old volunteer while living in Waipukurau.

After a promising start as a cadet, he spent 36 years as a full time paramedic and a further six years as a part-time volunteer. He was also superintendent of cadets in Napier and Havelock North, and started the senior division in Napier in the 1980s.

His St John career saw him attend some of the most tragic episodes in the province's history, including the Woodford House bus crash in 1987, where five people died after a bus carrying students from the Havelock North school rolled down a bank.

Many accident victims had since become lifelong friends.

Some of his former patients requested he act as their marriage celebrant in the ensuing years.

In fact when Hawke's Bay Today contacted the "retired" JP on Friday he was officiating at a wedding in Bay View. "I still do about 12 weddings a year."

As a member of the Hawke's Bay Justices of the Peace Association Council from 2001 and a member of the Justices of the Peace Court Panel from 1996, he made thousands of decisions sitting at Napier District Court bench, including dealing with the first appearance of the couple who stole the iconic Pania of the Reef statue in 2005.

"It's hard to explain but I found it [court] quite enlightening.

"My view was that I was there to help people.

"And that's the most rewarding thing about all these years - the people. I've enjoyed it very much."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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