About 200 people attended the Mahurangi East Community Centre in Snells Beach to pay their respects and celebrate the life of Elizabeth (Betty) Paxton who served on the Rodney District Council for 11 years.
Betty died peacefully on May 7 at the Amberlea Rest Home, Algies Bay. She was 90 years old.
Celebrant Dave Parker said the community had lost a much loved community leader and friend, a “treasured icon” who gave far more than she received.
Mr Parker said the depth and range of her involvement in community concerns was reflected in the numerous positions she held and the awards and honours bestowed on her during her life.
These included founding chairperson of the Mahurangi Community Trust, life membership of the Snells Beach Residents and Ratepayers Association, honorary life membership of the Omaha Life Saving Club, and at least five community service awards.
She served four terms on the Rodney District Council as a councillor for the northern ward.
On a lighter note, Betty was also awarded the Paddle Award from the Warkworth Visitor Centre in recognition of her role as the community’s “biggest stirrer.”
Betty was remembered for a sense of humour but also her ability to call a spade a spade. She was sometimes referred to as the “Iron Maiden of Kawau Bay,” in recognition of her determination to fight for what she believed in.
Mahurangi East Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer, Richard Wilcock, who worked alongside Betty at the Mahurangi Community Trust, recalled how Betty fought for the establishment of the fire station despite the opposition of the New Zealand Fire Service.
“Betty dug her toes in and thanks to her we are here,” he said.
“Betty did not know the word ‘no.’ She was a legend. If she wanted something done she would push everyone along to achieve her goal. She was just a whirlwind and swept everyone along with her enthusiasm,” he said.
Former Rodney Mayor Penny Webster said Betty was a person who worked for her community and put them first. She said a lot of fellow councillors were concerned they were not getting the money for their area because Betty had managed to pull it off for hers.
“She was a legend in her lifetime and many of us politicians worked to emulate her,” she said.
Betty drove the construction of the Mahurangi East Community Centre and its Betty Paxton room was named in her honour.
Betty had a tough early life that saw her growing up on a farm near Waimauku that was covered in gorse and blackberry. Every morning she would bike five miles to Waimauku to catch the train to attend Helensville High School. However, she did not complete her schooling until much later in life. She finally secured her School Certificate at the age of 60.
In addition to her community work, Betty was devoted to her family and took particular pride in the achievements of her grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Betty is survived by her children Wayne, Ken, Jude, Steve and Barb; her 18 grandchildren; more than 30 great grandchildren; and one great, great grandchild.