Until Whanganui's Anne Murray got to Wellington to receive her Queen's Service Medal she was thinking it was all "a lot of rubbish".

Arriving at Government House on Tuesday the truth hit home.

"I didn't realise how important the whole thing was. It wasn't until I arrived and thought this is where the Queen and all those dignitary people come that it really hit me."

It was a beautiful occasion with a lot of laughs, she said. And there was another on Thursday in Whanganui - a morning tea in her honour at St Mary's church hall with about 60 people from her family, her church and her work.

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Mrs Murray has kept open house at the church's Te Rau Oriwa Marae on Monday to Thursday mornings for the past six years. Before that she had a drop-in centre in Ridgway St, called Anne's Place.

The centres have been open to anyone, from any walk in life, who is looking for a cuppa and some companionship.

"Those people out there, no matter what they do, they're still humans. You can't push them away - you want to - but that's not my way anyway," she said.

Speaking on Thursday, Catholic chaplain David Scoullar said Mrs Murray was an inspiration.

"Anne is the salt of the earth. We need more Annes, and we need more recognition for the Annes in our community."

Mrs Murray is 87, and said she planned to carry on her Marae Time mornings, with the help of sister Letia, as long as her health is okay.

She attributes her desire to help to her upbringing at Okahukura, near Taumarunui, and especially to her mother.

"I really didn't know my dad, because he passed on. We grew up with our mum, and the help of the whanau. My mum was the main one behind everything. She was gorgeous - a little wee tiny lady with a big heart."