Rita O'Brien has decided one more stint of selling Anzac poppies, making it 66 years of doing so, will be enough.

Today is Poppy Day and the Rotorua woman will be selling her poppies at her rest home as well as organising a group of other women who will be selling them around the city.

Mrs O'Brien worked in a Christchurch bakehouse as part of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) during World War II.

She baked scones and sugar buns every week day and fruit cake for the weekend with one other girl for more than 3000 personnel.


Recently Mrs O'Brien was awarded a veteran badge and certificate signed by John Key for her service during the war.

She was told by a woman at Veterans' Affairs New Zealand that she was eligible.

"She sent me out the papers, they came and I sent them back and I forgot all about it. Then I got such a lovely surprise... I was absolutely thrilled, it hasn't really sunk in.

"I am very proud to have accepted that from John Key... It really is the people of New Zealand saying thank you to me for my effort in the forces during the war... I don't expect thanks, what I did was purely voluntary but this came as such a lovely surprise."

Before joining WAAF she was head of the "frock department" at a Christchurch store.

"Both my brothers and my sister were serving in the war and my dad had been a serviceman during World War I. One of my brothers went away with the first set and was taken prisoner of war. My second brother was in the Air Force and my sister was a nurse.
They all came back, but they are all gone now," she said.

Related articles:

15 Apr, 2016 10:30am
2 minutes to read
18 Apr, 2016 10:00am
3 minutes to read
20 Apr, 2016 11:30am
3 minutes to read
22 Apr, 2016 12:30pm
5 minutes to read

"There were many, many funny moments when I joined the WAAF because I was a very very innocent girl, and you can imagine being with all men, I went in like a lamb and came out like a lion. I did that for four and a half years."

She said selling poppies for 66 years had meant a lot "because you met all kinds of people, each with a story and I have enjoyed it so much". "It's been freezing cold but I've have never cared because it's been something I have really enjoyed doing.

"But now, as I tell people, I'm a real antique, I'm going on 96 this year."

Poppy Day is usually held each year on the Friday before Anzac Day, but this year will be held today.

Anzac Day is a national day of commemoration observed on April 25 each year for those who died serving New Zealand during war and it honours returned servicemen and women, past and present.

The Rotorua Anzac Day dawn service will be held at Ohinemutu from 5.45am and the

Anzac Day Civic Memorial Service will be held at 9.30am in the Rotorua Civic Theatre at the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre.

- Look for poppy sellers on the streets today or go to rsa.org.nz/donation to donate online.

Poppy Day:
- The use of the red poppy - the Flanders' Poppy - as a symbol of remembrance derives from the fact that the poppy was the first plant to re-emerge from the churned up soil of soldiers' graves during WWI.
- It was a poem, In Flander's Fields, by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian medical officer, which began the process by which the Flanders' Poppy became immortalised worldwide as the symbol of remembrance.
- Poppy Day is usually held on the Friday before Anzac Day.