There was laughter and tears in the Millie Wing lounge at Kaitaia rest home Switzer Residential Care on Tuesday, when general manager Jackie Simkins was farewelled into retirement. And if she learned anything, it was that she had more than one name.

Our illustrious leader, Her Highness and the leader of "our gaggle of geese" were among them, but the most popular was clearly Mrs Switzer.

Mrs Simkins, whose 21 years at the helm officially ended on Wednesday, said the home had been her "baby" for more than two decades, but she knew it was time to leave. It had been an honour, and mostly a pleasure, to lead the home, although there had been many challenges.

"Sometimes I thought it was just too difficult," she said, "but while I have not always been right, I hope I have always been fair. That is really important. It's what my nursing tutor told me some 40 years ago."

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The home, she said, provided much more than physical care for its residents.

"We have all worked hard to provide a truly caring environment, giving the people who live here a true home from home. The Eden Alternative is an essential part of that, and we should all be proud of what has been achieved in surrounding the residents with animals, plants and children, and love and care for one another.

"I could not be prouder of the trustees, the staff and volunteers, the whole community, and the allied health professionals who are such an important part of this home," she added.

"Switzer was a lovely place when I arrived, and it will be a lovely place when I go, albeit different. Tina (Mills, her successor) will lead it well into the future."

She also thanked the Northland DHB for its support, and recognised and thanked the residents who had made Switzer their home.

"Without you we would not have experienced all that you have taught us and shared with us," she said.

"But now it's time to spend time with my family, in my garden, with my animals, and perhaps to spend a little time on me too."

Many of the staff and residents thanked Mrs Simkins for all she had done, and presented gifts, including a garden seat with a basket containing, amongst other things, a bottle of wine or two to enjoy on a warm summer's evening.

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Those who spoke included volunteer co-ordinator Brian Atkins, who extolled the virtues of the Eden Alternative, and its aim of removing the stigma of loneliness, uselessness and boredom from the lives of the residents.

"That could not have been achieved without your leadership," he said.

"You have inspired us all, and if the constant pressure took its toll on you, you hid it well."