Obituary: Small stature with a big heart

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PROFOUND IMPACT: Volunteer Jill Newton was twice recognised by the Ashburton community for the service she gave.
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Mid Canterbury lost a long-serving and dedicated volunteer on January 14, when Jillian Annette Newton, died.

The list of organisations the 74-year-old gave her time to makes for impressive reading.

Jill was born in Ashburton on May 7, 1949. Apart from living 12 years in Alexandra, she spent the rest of her life in Mid Canterbury.

She was twice recognised by the Ashburton District Council for her services to the community, with a district council Community Civic Award in 2012 and the Mayor’s Award in 2019.

Since the early 1970s, Jill was an ostomate – someone who has an opening in their abdomen, changing the way waste exits the body.

She spent a lifetime volunteering while dealing with her own health problems. She had great empathy for people going through the ostomy journey and for people who struggled generally.

Jill Newton spent a lifetime volunteering while dealing with her own health problems.

Jill held various positions over a half century of involvement in ostomy associations in Mid Canterbury and further afield.

This included chairing the Ashburton branch, a position she had for almost 21 years, following serving in the roles of secretary and treasurer.

She was secretary of the South Canterbury branch for 16 years, vicepresident of the Asian and South Pacific Ostomy Association, a national executive member of the Federation of the NZ Ostomy Societies for 18 years and the organisations’s national president.

Her national body duties included helping to organise regional and national meetings and conferences, as well as advocacy work.

Her dedication to the ostomy societies led to her attending overseas conferences, including one in Frankfurt, Germany.

At the time there was a terrorist threat, but that didn’t stop Jill going out walking.

Ostomates in nearly 25 countries received a magazine that Jill took on editing in 2003. It took her about 150 hours for each of the magazines that were produced three times a year.

The camps she ran for young ostomates from 11- to 20-year-olds were fun and helped those living with the condition make the most of life.

Jill was a member of the New Zealand Red Cross.

As well as being a branch member, Jill went out with the evening District Nurses, providing an extra pair of hands and support for 34 years until the programme discontinued due to Covid.

Jill Newton was humble natured and unassuming about her extensive voluntary work.

In the aftermath of the February 22, 2011, Christchurch earthquake, Jill volunteered with Red Cross working in Christchurch. It wasn’t the only earthquake she stepped up to help with.

She responded as a Civil Defence volunteer at the Kaikoura earthquake. Jill volunteered for more than a decade with Civil Defence and was recognised last year with a long service award.

Her volunteering included work with St John and the New Zealand Police. She was a voluntary ambulance officer.

If the police needed to interview a young person who didn’t have an adult with them, Jill was a person they could call on to provide this support.

Her love of swimming saw her volunteer as a life guard at the Ashburton community pool for more than 30 years.

She described herself as a ‘‘night owl’’, so perfectly suited to a role with Community Patrols of New Zealand in Ashburton Town Watch.

For more than 25 years, Jill assisted with the patrolling the streets of the district on weekend nights.

She also provide 10 years’ secretarial services. In 2022 she received a commendation for 25 years of service.

Her faith was an important part of who Jill was, and no doubt sustained her and gave her comfort through her many health battles and challenges. She was a member of the Salvation Army and worked as the corps office administrator.

She had been an active participant when the Salvation Army provided an emergency caravan to respond to emergencies, helping the responders and those impacted by the event with refreshments.

Alongside this, Jill did many things in the background to assist with the running of the church, from filling-in if the cleaner wasn’t there, to assisting with the community foodbank when needed.

Other groups she gave her time to include as a driver for Presbyterian Support, member of the Kidney Foundation, board member of Neighbourhood Support, executive member with Victim Support and six years as support worker with the organisation, and volunteering at Ashburton community Christmas lunches.

Jill was humble natured and very unassuming about her voluntary work. She refused to let the challenges of health obstacles stop her because she had a zest for life.

‘‘Life is for living and I’m living it,’’ was a favourite saying of Jill’s and one she lived by.

Jill is survived by son Gavin, daughter Jillian and their families.