By Mick Jensen
Shirley Body was looking to make new friends and to keep her brain active when she first joined Ashburton Toastmasters.
Twenty five years on, she has more than fulfilled both.
The 86-year-old, a former teacher, had retired from the farm and was recovering from a heart attack when she went to her first meeting.
Countless meetings and many hours of fun later, she is calling time on the group because of ill health.
Toastmasters, says Shirley has been a highly positive experience in her retirement years.
“After Toastmasters meetings I always came home on a ‘high’ and with a smile on my face because they were such fun.
“They say that standing up and speaking in public is often your worst fear next to dying and for some it is, but those fears can soon go away.”
Toastmasters had helped her express her personality, build leadership skills and boosted her knowledge of a whole host of topics.
Shirley has an advanced communication gold certificate to her name and recommends Toastmasters to anyone aged over 18.
“We have senior members that act as mentors and assess speeches and offer positive feedback.
“Toastmasters teaches skills that can help people start conversations, talk more effectively on the telephone and improve general oral communication.”
Speeches, both off the cuff and prepared, are usually between three and seven minutes long and encourage speakers to talk without cue cards or extensive notes.
Ashburton Toastmasters secretary Phil Wheeler said the group would miss Shirley Body’s “wisdom, common sense and positive attitude” and “her impeccable grammar”.
Ashburton Toastmasters hold fortnightly Wednesday meetings (7.30 pm until 9.30pm) at the Allenton Bowling Club. Casual newcomers are welcome.