When Ohakune’s Merrilyn George began receiving congratulations upon the awarding of a Queen’s Service Medal, she was quick to refer to her family and faith as her key supports. Married to Ken for more than 50 years, it seemed coincidental that the announcement was made on this Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
This is because each year on this long weekend their two daughters and sons-in-law Kerren and Duane Dixon and Maxine and Alex Hakaraia and as many of their seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren who are able, return to their Ohakune home underneath a snow-covered Mt Ruapehu.
The award recognises Mrs George’s services to education and the community.
In her 50 years teaching mostly at Ruapehu College she has taught textile technology, visual arts, art history, Māori language and culture, food technology and nutrition, social studies, mathematics and science.
Outside school hours, she has coached softball and netball, where she delights in building a rapport with the students.
In 2005, when the college held its successful 50th jubilee, she was the committee chairperson. Her contributions to the community have been just as generous.
In 1990, Mrs George wrote and published a book Ohakune — Opening to a New World, about the local history. Becoming a local historian in her own right she continues to research and write historical documents about the Waimarino district. This work produces invaluable resources.
In 2002, she was awarded the Royal New Zealand Society fellowship for Traditional Maori Textiles Technology and continues exhibiting with the Aotearoa Quilters and Fibre Arts New Zealand.
“My Catholic faith has grown into being ‘as threads in a fabric’. I do the best I can
with the gifts given to me by God and to be able to make a difference in someone’s life whether at school or the community. Service is about using the talents God has given you for the benefit of society,” she said.
When days haven’t been so good, Mrs George would reflect on how her personal inspiration, the Venerable Suzanne Aubert, might have managed that.
“Suzanne’s compassion, her strength of conviction, her spirituality and [my] working on the quilt collection called Set Apart expressing the story of Suzanne Aubert, have deepened my understanding of a woman who very clearly knew her way, but was so open to providence.
“Suzanne taught me how to be more open to trust and have hope.”
Mrs George is an inaugural member of the Associates of Suzanne Aubert — Te Hunga Whai i nga Akoranga a Suzanne.
The investiture of Mrs George’s honour will take place in Wellington at Government House in late August/early September.