It's a shock, a surprise and "a bit of a thrill" to be awarded a Queen's Service Medal for her many roles in the Whanganui community, Margaret Campion says.

She's been a key member of Alzheimers Whanganui since 1989, serving as president for much of that time. But she's also been busy with Zonta, the National Council of Women (NCW), had a stint on Whanganui District Council, finished a BA degree and written a few histories.

She's proudest of her time with Alzheimers.

"I've worked long and hard with those people, and they're a great group."

Advertisement

She got involved when her own mother, Mollie Neilsen, got dementia. She had no idea what it was all about and she and her father went to a course about how to handle it.

Alzheimers Whanganui was a small organisation at the time. She discovered an enormous need there, and stuck with it. She intends to retire as president at the next annual general meeting, but carry on helping.

Margaret Campion was brought up on a farm in Longacre Valley, and went to Whanganui East School. She married Cameron "Cam" Campion and lived with him at Okirae, a large farm in the Whangaehu Valley. They had four children and he was the National Party MP for Whanganui from 1990 to 1993.

She has always been interested in social and family history, and did two writing courses. Her book The Road to Mangamahu was published in 1988, and she has also written a centenary booklet for Whanganui East School and a 75-year history of NCW.

Feeling isolated on the farm, she joined Zonta and was its president from 2003 to 2005. She joined NCW, and is a life member.

"I did meet good people and I absolutely got a huge amount out of both of them."

When her husband became ill they sold the farm and moved to Whanganui in 1995. Then he died, and by that time all her children had left home.

"I was only 50. I had to do something. I had another life ahead of me," she said.

She did a BA degree in history and English, extramurally, as well as throwing herself into her community work and serving as a Whanganui District councillor from 2001 to 2004.

Family has always been her main focus, and one of her next projects will be family histories from both sides of the family.