The Far North (Kaitaia) RSA has granted life membership to four of its stalwarts.
Arthur Simeon, Toto Thompson, Russell Hockley and Pansy Foster received their awards, which clearly came as a surprise, at a Sunday afternoon function attended by their families and friends. President Angel Erstich said all four had contributed a great deal to the RSA and the community.
Mr Simeon, born at Mangonui, at what was to become Kaitaia Hospital, in 1931, spent his early years at Otangaroa. The oldest of Nikora and Kuimere (nee Job) Simeon's seven children, he and his siblings were separated after their mother died, but remained in contact over the years.
Educated at Pamapuria, Mangamuka and Moerewa, before becoming a foundation student at Kaitaia District High School, he worked as a farm hand until he joined the Army in 1949. He had a long career, including an 18-month tour in Vietnam, where his best friend, Al Don, was the first New Zealander to lose his life.
He retired with the rank of warrant officer, operating a taxi business on Waiheke Island, followed by driving for South Auckland Taxis in Papakura. He and his wife Kitty also devoted many years of their post-Army life to golf.
The couple and their daughter returned to Kaitaia in 1996, where Mr Simeon drove school buses, and both he and his wife continued to play golf.
Both were life members of the Papakura RSA, and Mr Simeon is currently the Kaitaia RSA's patron.
Pansy Foster was also born at Mangonui Hospital, in 1928, the daughter of Eric and Millie Webber. She began her education at Peria School, a four-mile walk from home, followed by Kaitaia District High School.
She worked as a secretary at the Kaitaia Dairy company, and with husband Ian owned the Houhora Hotel for eight years. She later worked for Bob Coulter at Kaitaia Cycle Works for 17 years, and, after 'retiring' in 1988, worked for some years at Kaitaia's Orana Motor Inn. She also joined the RSA Women's Section in Kaitaia.
Russell Hockley, who is also a life member of the Houhora Golf and Bowling clubs (and who smelled a rat before the presentation courtesy of his daughter's enthusiastic quizzing of him), was born in Wellington in 1939, serving 22 years in the Royal New Zealand Navy, retiring in 1977 with the rank of warrant officer. He joined the RSA sub-branch at Houhora in 1978, serving as secretary and delegate to Kaitaia for about a decade.
He was instrumental in organising Anzac Day parades at Houhora and Te Kao for many years, and served four years as the Kaitaia RSA's bar manager. He too was a keen golfer, and also represented the organisation at bowls.
He has served as president of the Malayan Vets, and is currently a member of the King's Empire Veterans.
Toto Thompson (83) joined the Army in 1956, serving more than 22 years, including active service in Malaya, Thailand and Borneo, retiring as the Army School regimental sergeant major at Waiouru.
Chairman of the local KEV branch, he has been a member of the RSA since 1957. He chairs the local Malayan Vets (KEV) unit, is a member of the RSA Bowling Club, and has advised students who are considering careers in the armed services.