Helena (Lena) Girdler was a strong supporter of St John for much of her life, and when she died on January 22, aged 97, she gave the order one last gift, a bequest that has now funded the purchase of a brand new ambulance.

The Mercedes Sprinter, which was the last ambulance produced in Hamilton for 2018, arrived in Kaitaia a little over a week ago, replacing an older vehicle that has been returned to the national ambulance pool. All going well, it will serve the Kaitaia district for eight years.

Long-time friend Barbara Schrafft said Helena Gladys Leahy was born in Plymouth, England, on September 9, 1920. Both her father and grandfather served with the Royal Navy.

Helena Girdler, a friend of St John to the end.
Helena Girdler, a friend of St John to the end.

It was shortly after World War II (in which she served three years in communications) that she met and married Ron Girdler, who suggested they move to New Zealand. She and Ron had no children, but Lena was much loved by the numerous youngsters for whom she made coconut ice and chocolate fudge.


The couple had been married less than 20 years when Ron died, but Lena continued to play an active role in her adopted community, including as an avid bridge player (until arthritis made it difficult for her to hold her cards,) and a supporter of the Salvation Army and the RSA.

As a youngster she had been a Girl Guide and had had a lot to do with Red Cross, Barbara said, and she was well travelled, whilst single and with Ron after her marriage.
Her friend, she added, had been a very well educated, prim and proper lady.