‘It’s fine, Terry’s here now’: St John stalwart honoured

A career of firsts . . . Terry Kent received a Citizens Award last month for his many years of service to St John and Musical Theatre Oamaru. PHOTO: NIC DUFF

Waitaki is richer for the work its residents do behind the scenes. The Oamaru Mail is running a series celebrating this year’s Waitaki Citizens Awards recipients. This week, Oamaru’s Terry Kent talks to Nic Duff about why helping out in his community is so important to him.

St John stalwart Terry Kent was not thinking of awards when he began as a volunteer ambulance officer.

But having his service acknowledged at the Waitaki Citizens Awards last month was very satisfying, Mr Kent said.

‘‘Like everyone else, I’m pretty certain no-one starts a journey by thinking what might be the rewards many years from [when it begins] in terms of recognition.’’

Soon after he started his volunteer role, he took up a full-time career at St John and spent 43 years caring for and transporting patients.

He was the first in the Waitaki district to attend the national training school, and then became the first to be trained as an intermediate paramedic. During this time he also spent 20 years volunteering as a senior first aid tutor.

Being involved in a smaller community for such a long time, Mr Kent was able to help many generations of people within the region.

‘‘You might arrive at a situation where somebody else that is not the patient will make a reassuring comment from the opposite side of the room and the most common one would be ‘It’s fine, Terry’s here now’.

‘‘Part of that would be [due to] being in the size of the community we have in Oamaru and Waitaki. If I was doing that in Auckland or maybe even Wellington, you might not meet that same family again.’’

He is still on the Oamaru Area Committee for St John, which he chaired from 2013 to 2020. He was also made a life member.

Throughout his tenure with St John, he has held multiple positions including secretary, treasurer, station officer and operations manager.

Mr Kent holds the St John Ultra Long Service Gold Medal & Bar for his 58 years of service, becoming only the 43rd person in New Zealand to receive one.

He was invested as a Member of the Order of St John in 1983 and had twice been promoted to become a Commander of St John. He is only the third person from Oamaru to hold this rank in 130 years.

Alongside his commitment to St John, Mr Kent was also heavily involved in Musical Theatre Oamaru. This was something many people may not know, he said.

‘‘I think to a certain generation I’m pretty well known for the work that I did with St John but as often happens, people don’t understand that that’s not your sole activity.’’

He has performed on stage and been head of the marketing department. On the committee, he has been president and treasurer and was made a life member.

In 2018, Mr Kent received a Merit Award from Musical Theatre New Zealand.

He was also a vital part in the refurbishment of the Oamaru Opera House as he was on the working party/sub-committee.

Mr Kent, who grew up in Auckland, settled in Oamaru at the age of 21.

His other community contributions include Civil Defence and Search and Rescue.

For the past 14 years, he has been involved with 45 South Television, on which he has been a presenter, interviewer, cameraman, editor, and treasurer.

He is currently relief presenter and chairman.