Prepared and read at the memorial service by Mike Kerningham, Cancer Society.
It is a very real privilege to have been invited to speak at Dion’s memorial service. Noelene, to you and your family, on behalf of everyone at the Cancer Society may I express our heartfelt condolences at the passing of Dion.
I’m sure that a large number of you here will be well aware of Dion’s volunteering roles with the Cancer Society. I’m not sure I am doing his enormous contribution justice with what I will share with you this afternoon; but I trust and hope that you get a sense of just how much we valued Dion, and Noelene’s, work for us.
Dion started volunteering for the Cancer Society over 25 years ago, initially as a volunteer driver – transporting people with a cancer diagnosis to and from Dunedin Hospital for their treatment. The co-ordinator of the driving service at the time was the father of our current co-ordinator Valda Gardiner. When I mentioned that I had been invited to speak here today Valda’s eyes lit up and she was so pleased that Dion’s contribution was to be acknowledged in this way.
Valda told me that Dion was always immaculately dressed and looked really young for his age!!!!! Valda also mentioned that Dion was always punctual and enjoyed “great chat”, as they say these days, with everyone he met.
As a person who had had a cancer diagnosis – prostate cancer – Dion was very empathetic to those he transported to and from treatment. He visited patients in their homes, particularly those who were living on their own; he understood the challenges that a cancer diagnosis poses and he went out of his way to provide support and encouragement to patients, to whom he became very close.
Dion was our Daffodil Day co-ordinator for the Port Chalmers area for almost the entire time he was a volunteer for us. His natural skills for precise ordering of resources and providing teams of volunteers for the Port Chalmers area were significant reasons why Port Chalmers has always supported Daffodil Day so well.
Several times Dion tried to retire from Daffodil Day as he got older, but was not prepared to do so until he had found someone whom he could train and guide to eventually take over from him.
Daffodil Day is the single biggest day in our fundraising calendar; it is people like Dion who make what we do possible by their incredible commitment.
But that’s not all!!! On top of Dion’s driving, visiting patients and co-ordinating Daffodil Day for the Port Chalmers area, Dion and Noelene opened the garden to the public from Spring to Autumn each year. The pleasure they gained from their beautiful garden was able to be shared with people from all over the world and the funds raised from the open garden tours were donated to the Cancer Society. When Noelene brought the donation box into the Cancer Society she always had a great smile on her face and was so delighted as each year there was always an increase in donations from the previous year.
The Cancer Society could not continue to operate without the contribution of our many volunteers. As cancer impacts on one in three of us (whether that is ourselves with a cancer diagnosis, a loved family member or a close friend) we quite simply need people in our communities to help us with what we do. In effect, by helping us, our volunteers are helping directly those people in their communities who are impacted by cancer.
Dion, and Noelene, contributed over a third of their lifetime to the Cancer Society; we can never repay that generosity, nor will our communities ever really know and understand the huge difference Dion and Noelene have made. Suffice to say that their contribution has been enormous and we are indebted to Dion and Noelene for their incredible commitment to their community.