Ashburton man Don Hopwood has been awarded the White Star Jewel, the highest award given by the Order of the Manchester Unity Friendly Society and an honour that recognises exceptional service.
There are just 14 holders of the medal nationally.
Don, who is 83, has been involved with Manchester Unity for 67 years and is still the fraternal district grand master, a title he has held for the past 15 years.
A special afternoon investiture service to recognise his long service was held recently at Trott’s Garden.
Family and friends attended and Don was presented with the White Star Jewel medal, a framed citation and congratulations from the Manchester Unity top brass.
His citation said that Manchester Unity in the Ashburton district “would not be as strong as it is without your decades of work and service”.
Don first joined the Rakaia Lodge as a 16-year-old, soon after starting a motor trade apprenticeship.
With most of his small wage covered by expenses, lodge membership offered a number of benefits and financial support.
“I could get sick pay of one pound a week with a doctor’s certificate from the lodge, which was almost half my wage, so it was a no-brainer for me to join.”
From 1953 until 1969, Brother Don, as he was referred to, served in all roles and was active in Rakaia Lodge life.
He remained a member of that lodge until it amalgamated with Ashburton in 1990.
At district level, Don’s first appointment came in 1963 when he joined the management committee.
Two years later he was awarded the Purple Degree for his service.
Don was deputy district grand master in 1970 and again in 1990 and grand master in 1971 and 1991.
In 1989 he was appointed as a district trustee as well as a trustee to the Ashburton District Credit Union.
He served on the Ashburton UFS dispensary board from 2004-12, until the business was sold.
Don said the Manchester Unity Friendly Society had been a big part of his life and had taken up a chunk of his free time.
He had made friendships and learnt a number of useful skills over the years, not the least the ability to run meetings.
Ashburton currently had over 700 members and the society provided insurance, financial products and holiday accommodation and was still the country’s largest fraternal friendly society, he said.
Don said he was honoured to receive the White Star Jewel award.
As well as his lodge activities, he has led a busy and active life.
He worked at Mid Canterbury Transport for 20 years and later ran Ashburton Engineering for 27 years before retirement.
He was a founding member of both the Ashburton Electronic Organ Club and now-defunct Ashburton Video Club and was an assistant scout master for 10 years.