If a measure of a person's passion for their community is the contribution they make then Gerald McDouall's involvement in Whanganui stands as a benchmark.

McDouall died in Whanganui Hospital on June 15 aged 88 and leaves a legacy of unstinting community service.

He received an OBE in the 1984 New Year's honours for services to the NZ Red Cross and the community. He wasn't aware of the award at the time because he was canoeing the Whanganui River with his sons Andrew and Hamish.

Born in Waimate in the South Island on November 18, 1929, he was educated in Dunedin before joining the National Bank in that city in 1948. He was following a path laid down by both his father and grandfather who had both been managers for that bank.


His early career saw him working in Milton (South Otago), the north Dunedin branch and then Whanganui.

He headed to England for 18 months and it was there McDouall recalled meeting Lord General Freyberg, a former Governor-General of NZ and a man he called one of the most unforgettable personality he had met.

It was at a reception in London and their conversation focused on for the touring NZ cricket team (which included Whanganui's Harry Cave) playing a test at Lords.

"Fifteen minutes later we met as I was going up some stairs and Lord Freyberg was coming down. The aide escorting Lord Freyberg said 'Have you met this young man from New Zealand?' To my surprise Lord Freyberg said 'No …how do you do' and we shook hands.

Geral McDouall's funeral was held on Wednesday. Photo / Stuart Munro
Geral McDouall's funeral was held on Wednesday. Photo / Stuart Munro

"It was a bit shattering to one's social confidence and humbling to one's personality that he had already forgotten me," he said.

Back in NZ he came to Whanganui in 1963 to spearhead the establishment of the Wanganui Savings Bank as its first manager. It was the same year he married Shirley Sanson.

The couple met when they performed in a play together at Amdram during his first bank posting to Whanganui as a young man in his 20s. Although he returned to the South Island then journeyed overseas, he never forgot her.

With McDouall managing bank affairs, Shirley continued running her ballet school as well as raising a daughter and two sons. But despite their hectic schedules they immersed themselves in community affairs.


He led the Savings Bank (later Trust Bank) for two decades and when he retired in 1983 his energies were directed to a raft of community organisations, both at a local and national level. It is not understating it to say he had a prodigious record in Whanganui's community affairs.

McDouall would later serve as a city and then district councillor, challenged for the mayoralty (finishing third), was a member of the Wanganui-Rangitikei Electric Power Board and later chaired the Powerco Community Trust.

And it was an extensive involvement including leading the city's Chamber of Commerce and singing in the Male Choir. He was active in the Neurological Foundation, the Wanganui Medical Foundation, NZ Red Cross, was a lay reader in the Anglican Church and past-president of the Wanganui Officers Club.

He also found time to belong to Jaycees, Lions and Rotary clubs, was a member of the museum board, the Royal Agricultural Society, the city's Paraplegic and Disabled Association and the Kennel Society.

His OBE in 1984 recognised his outstanding services to the NZ Red Cross. He chaired the local branch for some years, was a member of the organisation's national executive, serving as treasurer for a time and represen5ted NZ Red Cross at the Asia-Pacific conference in Indonesia in 1981.

In an interview in the Wanganui Herald in 1983, McDouall said he saw his appointment as first manager of the savings bank as a challenge: "Throughout my working life I've responded best in these circumstances." It was that attitude he took into challenges for the mayoralty and eventually earned him a seat at the council table.


Interestingly the issues he thought important for the city's advancement still hold true. In his 1983 local body election campaign he said one of the city's greatest needs "is an increase in population.

The ratepayer base is too small. We need entrepreneurial skills, determination, investment of capital and a sound marketing approach for all industries. We want the many good industries already here to expand and we want to attract new ones."

They are issues his son Hamish, Whanganui's current mayor, will be all too familiar with. The younger McDouall said he father was a dignified man of immense integrity who loved his family, collecting stamps, the Highlanders rugby team, mirth, serving the community and food.

McDouall's funeral was held at the Wanganui Collegiate School chapel on Wednesday.
He is survived by his wife Shirley, daughter Racheal, sons Andrew and Hamish an d seven grandchildren.