Medal caps 80th birthday party for army stalwart

By Staff Reporter

Morrie O'Connell's daughter Moyra says her 80-year-old dad still gets around with relative ease.

"His only noticeable impairment would be his hearing, or as his grown children often remind him, his selective hearing," she says.

But that's hardly surprising, says Ms O'Connell, given her dad served in the Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps as a ammunition technician in the days before health and safety regulations.

On Saturday, the O'Connell family travelled from all over New Zealand to celebrate Mr O'Connell's 80th birthday at the Summerset retirement village in Wanganui East.

The family also used the reunion to formally present both Mr O'Connell and his wife, Pauline, with the New Zealand Defence Service Medal, awarded to those who have served in the military for three years or more since the end of WWII.

The pair met at Trentham Military Camp in 1957. They were wed on May 9, 1959, and had seven children: two daughters and five sons.

Mr O'Connell served in the NZ Army for 26 years, joining as a recruit on July 30, 1951.

Mrs O'Connell spent her childhood in London and clearly recalls the blitz, doodlebug bombs and being evacuated from the city.

After WWII she joined the British Army, serving three years in the Army Catering Corps before emigrating to New Zealand and signing on with the NZ Army.

Alongside his military service, Mr O'Connell, who was born in Wellington, took to competitive running and race walking, and trained with Arthur Lydiard at one stage.

Mr and Mrs O'Connell's son, Commander Phillip O'Connell of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, presented the medal to both of his parents during the celebration.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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