Legend in her backyard

By Jared Smith

Betty McDowell doesn't stand on ceremony "that's not me" she says when it comes to doing a photo shoot and interview.

But after 25 years' service to one of Wanganui's most important hub's, the 75-year-old deserves her recognition, in the form of Life Membership from the committee of the Wanganui Community Sports Centre at their AGM last week.

McDowell joined the committee in March of 1988, having been involved in the Wanganui Indoor Bowlers Association since 1979.

As her sport's representative on the centre committee, she has been involved in its development and expansions to two stadiums and the North Island home of the New Zealand Masters Games.

She has always been proud the entity has maintained its governing and financial independence to foster a multitude of codes.

"I like the thought that it's run by the sportspeople for the sports.

"I just get on and do it.

"I so enjoyed being on the stadium committee, that's why I stayed so long.

"Manager Alan [Kenny's] not getting rid of me because they've made me a life member."

Joking aside, McDowell wished to thank the Kenny family, who through two generations have had a long association with the centre's administration.

She was 50 when she came on board, as having worked 22 years at H&A; Print in Wanganui, McDowell came from the old school mentality of stepping up to volunteer one's spare time in service to the community.

"There's a lot of people less fortunate than me, and I wouldn't do it if I didn't like it.

"I'm not a person to change around."

Back in the old day the committee would meet once a month for sessions which often went till midnight.

This on top of indoor bowls where "you had to help with all the tournaments" in a long season, as well as being on the Masters Games committee.

"We started it with a few hundred and look how it's grown," McDowell said.

"[Being involved] kept me abreast of what was going on in the stadium.

"I was sort of a go-between, kept things calm between the sport I'm involved in.

"I'm a nosey person so it's nice to know what goes on.

"I have to admit, I get a lot of enjoyment out of it."

Committee chairman Graham Feist said McDowell and the indoor bowlers have always been important contributors to the history of the centre, ever since 1962 when it was first built.

At the time, McDowell said indoor bowler John Smith won the King Carnival, as part of the big fundraising effort to get the initial stadium built.

The public and volunteers raised the equivalent of $2 million in today's money, half the total final cost which was estimated to be just over $4m (60,000 at the time), said Mr Feist.

"Do you think you can raise $2 million today [publicly] for a modern facility?

"The answer is, you'd be nowhere near."

McDowell joins two other life members Bill Tolhurst, the original chairman and driving force for the complex and Nelson Tizard, the original secretary.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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