Jenny Kitchen will be remembered for many things at Kaitaia rest home Switzer Residential Care, not least her propensity for breaking into a dance at the slightest provocation.

The home's nurse manager needed no encouragement to do just that on Thursday, when she was farewelled into retirement by residents, colleagues and friends.

And while there were a few tears, she left with the warmest of tributes from those she had worked with over the last 18 years, and those who she had helped care for.

General manager Jackie Simkins said Mrs Kitchen had been the yin to her yang, the left arm to her right.

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"We thought about barricading her in, but we all have to move on at some time," she said.
Mrs Kitchen had invested huge effort into making the home better than it was when she found it. It was now a real home, as opposed to an institution, and she was entitled to a great deal of the credit for that.

"She was often the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. We have shared some very, very early mornings — I'm talking about 2 and 3am," Mrs Simkins added.

The home, she said, had benefited from a succession of "really good people", the likes of the late Mary Herbert (Mrs Kitchen's predecessor as clinical manager), registered nurse Dulcie Hoffman and Jenny Kitchen.

Doug Klever, who had only joined the staff three years ago as facilities manager, said Mrs Kitchen had been "pretty influential" on him. He referred to her as the Inspector General, not least for her ability to spot a safety pin on the floor from the far end of a hall.

Anne Richter offered her best wishes for the future on behalf of her fellow residents.
"We will all miss you. God bless you," she said.

The kitchen staff added their best wishes, and "a bit of a cake", another colleague describing her as unfailingly "getting in there boots and all", dancing at the drop of a hat (even throwing a kick or two as she made her way from one part of the home to another), singing and playing the piano (Mrs Kitchen confessing that she did not have the most extensive repertoire).

For her part, Switzer had been her life, her second home, for 18 years. The residents, many of whom she had known for a lifetime, and her colleagues had become her family.

"Everyone helps out," she said, adding that Mrs Simkins was an "amazing" leader, the best anyone could have asked for.

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"This has been a fantastic place to work, and it is difficult to leave," she added.

She wasn't disappearing altogether though. She would be a regular caller, for a cup of coffee and a chat.

In the meantime she was looking forward to a busy retirement, gardening, washing windows (which she wasn't anticipating with unbridled relish), sorting out photos and her father Wally McCulloch's World War II memorabilia and much more besides.

And she wasn't ruling out the possibility that she would be back one day as a member of the home's small army of volunteers.

Sad occasion

Another farewell took place at the Orana on Saturday night, trust board chairman Peter Dryburgh saying it was a sad occasion, although he suspected that Mrs Kitchen was experiencing a mixture of sadness and relief.

"You are a wonderful nurse, and will be sadly missed," he said.

His faith in her and the team at Switzer had not been misplaced, he added, and everyone could be proud of the service they delivered to the elderly in their community.

Mrs Simkins said Mrs Kitchen had been coerced into accepting the nurse manager's role, a very challenging one that she had not really wanted.

"You have been a real asset to the trust with the care, skills, knowledge, experience and passion you have brought to the home," she added.

"Stay young at heart and kind of spirit in your retirement."

Mrs Kitchen had one last piece of advice for her former colleagues: "Love (the residents) like they are your parents," she said.

The new nurse manager is Jo Philip.