Shirley Walker had to wipe away tears when she walked into a community thank you evening last week.

"I'm overwhelmed," the former Tararua field officer for the Cancer Society said. "I wasn't expecting this. I thought this was just going to be a small, intimate thing."

Instead, to Shirley's shock, the Dannevirke Services and Citizens Club was packed and Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis said it was a huge tribute to Shirley to see so many from around the district attend.

"Shirley has helped so many people and has motivated her volunteers," she said.

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"Shirley has given 12 years of care and compassion to people in their time of need. At people's weakest moment Shirley was there and what she has done will stay in people's hearts forever.

"Her passion inspired so many and she showed such caring and giving. Shirley, you are genuinely appreciated by all your volunteers too. Thank you for the legacy of love you have given so many people. How do we show you how much we appreciate what you have done?

"The reality of being ill and losing your income while fighting the battle means there were so many people impacted by cancer and it's been a great privilege to hear what Shirley and her volunteers are doing in our community."

After 12 years going above and beyond her job description to help families affected by cancer throughout the Tararua District, Walker has decided it's time for other ventures now.

"I just don't know what to say and I'm usually one with a lot to say," she said as friends, family, colleagues and the volunteers from across the district who became a very special part of her life, gathered to say a big thank you.

"I used to be a quiet individual, but over the years I realised if I didn't speak up for my community or myself, nothing would get done," she said.

The evening was held just a day before what would have been 13 years since her interview for the job, a memorable day, Walker said.

"I didn't think I would get the job and I had to learn as I went along," she said.

"I sure as hell had to learn and go that extra mile, but it's the volunteers and this community who have helped me. The Cancer Society has had good times and very bad times, but the volunteers kept me going."

Walker explained one of the big things about her time in the role was that a lot of money was given to the Dannevirke Cancer Support Group "under the radar."

"I knew the Dannevirke Community Hospital needed a whanau room and money given to us by former Old Acquaintance Club members was used for this project," she said.

"I know they were very pleased and said we had done something benefiting our community."

Walker said she was very grateful also for Herbert and Teresa Chase who took her under their wing.

"I probably taught them a thing or two, but our friendship has gone on and they are dear to my heart," she said.

Collis said seeing Walker working tirelessly at the Relay for Life, motivated and encouraged everybody.

"Shirley is one of the few people who can make a call across the district and get the support because of the huge respect for her," Collis said. "And people have given so generously because of Shirley."

Judith Franklin of the Dannevirke Cancer Support Group said Walker cared deeply for her volunteers.

"She worked very long hours and it was a tiring job," she said.

"We were very grateful for her, she always had a listening ear and was never too busy to help the volunteers. She was a great inspiration."

The evening was sponsored by Grant Hurrell who has been a supporter of Walker since she first stepped into the job with the Cancer Society.