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What a night . . . From left, Knight of St John Grant Eames and commanders of St John Terry Kent and John David Thomas walk into the St John honours and awards ceremony at Manor Estate last Friday. PHOTO: SHANNON GILLIES

He has rescued people from the brink of death, delivered babies and helped talk people through harsh emotional times, and he has been recognised for his decades of service to North Otago.

St John Oamaru area chairman Terry Kent is in his 53rd year of service to Oamaru St John, and on Friday, at the group’s honours and awards presentation ceremony, he was offically recognised for his service.

He said what kept him in the organisation was the people he met and the opportunities the organisation gave him to grow as a person.

“Other people gave me challenges . . . gave me challenges by saying this needs to be dealt with or this needs to be progressed. I’ve always been going to one project from another.”

There was no opportunity to leave the group as there was always work to be done – to make other people’s lives better, he said.

“On day one, you’re a member and there’s a job to be done. Fifty-three years later and there’s a job to be done.”

Early days . . . St John Oamaru area chairman Terry Kent in 1965, when he had been a member of St John Oamaru for a year. The markings on his sleeve are the sergeant stripes and the secretary’s quill – the first two positions he held. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

When he moved from Auckland to Oamaru to marry a local woman in 1963, he was a mechanic by trade.

“Oamaru was just a place my Lane’s Emulsion came from that was to be poured down my throat.”

He worked at a local company before he bought into a partnership with three others and became part of Mortimer and Small, which eventually became Terry Kent Motors.

A volunteer from St John inspired Mr Kent to join the organisation, and his commitment grew from there.

He said during his years in the operational side of St John, he had witnessed some heart-wrenching moments.

“I certainly have experienced the worst .. absolutely the worst.”

In 1974, he was part of the response team that dealt with an incident where three children died trapped in a freezer.

“My then wife and I were involved with the events that followed.”

It was incidents like that which helped him improve with his response to post-traumatic stress.

“You learn to have a strategy. It’s a strategy that you don’t try to forget the worst thing, but you just try to talk about them.

“I’ve been to murders; I’ve been to rapes; I’ve been to accidents where people have died in front of my eyes.”

Mr Kent used these experiences to help mentor others who had come through St John Oamaru, and he believed he had become someone St John could rely upon to help encourage growth of the area office.

Positions he has held in St John include station manager, secretary and ambulance officer.

Other interests have had to fight for space as he took on more work, but he has always tried to make time for his son, who now works in Australia, and his daughter, based in Oamaru.

He said he made sure the time he spent with his partner and children was special and of value.

He is married and has two children and three stepchildren.

Mr Kent (left) is recognised for his 52 years of service to the welfare group by Mr Eames. PHOTO: SHANNON GILLIES