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Town honours the two Margarets

By Erin Kavanagh-Hall

Eketahuna's Margaret Parsons and Margaret Oliver - affectionately known as "the two Margarets" within their tight-knit community - are no strangers to being recognised.

Miss Parsons and Mrs Oliver, both long-time Eketahuna residents, are well-known in the community, having spent years volunteering their time and resources, organising everything from craft fairs to fitness classes, to concerts, to Eketahuna's famous Art Shows.

But when the women received the long-standing Alf Rowden Humanitarian Award for their services, they were overwhelmed by the attention.

"I was a bit embarrassed, to be honest," said Mrs Oliver who, with close friend Miss Parsons, was presented with the award at a ceremony organised by Tararua District Council in April.

"About 70-80 people showed up. A lot of people came to congratulate us.

"It was a very nice evening but embarrassing. I like being in the background, rather than being up-front, and I really don't like making speeches.

"But to receive the award was an honour."

Miss Parsons found receiving the award, named after Eketahuna electrician volunteer and deputy mayor Alf Rowden, a humbling experience.

"We were sitting right at the front [of the Eketahuna Community Centre] and everyone was looking at us," she said.

"There were lots of people with cameras, taking photos. The mayor was there, as well as three of Alf Rowden's sons. It was exciting - but you do this kind of thing for the community, not yourself."

The reluctant heroines were given the award for decades of service to the community, both individually and collectively.

Between them, they ran a campaign to set up a Four Square in Eketahuna, ran the Eketahuna Kiwi Country Information Centre, helped bring a fill-in doctor to the town, ran yoga classes and organised a mini-Olympics for Eketahuna School.

After meeting through the Eketahuna Business Association, and organising several Christmas parades and craft fairs together, the "two Margarets" started the Eketahuna Art Group in 1986.

Since then the art group has run 14 biennial exhibitions, which have become popular with both locals and visitors.

"We have hundreds of people come through," said Miss Parsons.

"We always have them at Labour weekend, so there's always people going north and south. We have some very loyal people come year after year."

The art exhibitions typically consist of works from lower North Island artists, some of which have sold for generous sums of money, said Miss Parsons.

"We had one painting which sold for about $2500," she said.

"Some of them go back to America even."

Mrs Oliver says receiving new artworks to display every year is "like Christmas".

"We love unwrapping them," she said.

"We get nudes, we get everything. Some of them, we don't even know what they are."

Every other year, the Margarets run craft fairs, antiques roadshows and pottery displays. This year they are running a "trash to treasure" sale, inviting the community to donate used household items.

The pair say they have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of serving the people of Eketahuna.

"We've had so much fun," said Miss Parsons, who has lived in the township all her life. "It's a lovely community. Being volunteers here has kept us going."

And neither Margaret plans to slow down any time soon.

"My sight's deteriorating a bit, but I'm hoping to carry on for a wee while yet," said Mrs Oliver.


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