Mary Ann Baskerville

Mary Ann Baskerville and family

Citation Speech for Mary Ann Baskerville

Those of you who know Mary Ann know that she’s as warm a person that you will ever meet. Her personality is infectious and she takes great pride in that she’s made a living from talking to people, something that she says she would have done for free!

But if it wasn’t for a ratbag of an ex-boyfriend, Mary Ann might never have ended up in New Zealand, let alone Feilding. Only after arriving in the country from the United States did she realise how much of a ratbag he was, and by that stage all of her belongs were on their way here via ship. Fortunately it all worked out for her eventually, and she settled in Feilding with her husband in 1981, and we have the beneficiaries of her service ever since. She says that whilst she’s been all around New Zealand, she’s never felt the same connection with anywhere else than she does with Feilding and it’s residents. It has everything that she wants and needs.

When she first arrived, she lived in Te Awamutu where she fell into social work by accident. Having gained a degree in mathematics and psychology, she was invited by some friends to see what they did as social workers. She enjoyed it so much, she went on to become a social worker, briefly returning to the States to gain another degree in social work.

She returned to New Zealand and began working at Massey University’s College of Health in 1978, and held roles of Senior Lecturer and Operation Manager, before retiring in 2007. More than anything, Feilding was a convenient place to live for both Mary Ann and her husband, as she was working in Palmy, he was from Whanganui and Feilding was kind of in the middle.

In 1992, SINCOSS was established to help facilitate and coordinate social services agencies in the Manawatū and Mary Ann one one of the founding members, providing many hours of support and expertise at critical times. Through SINCOSS is how Ruth Dalzell met Mary Ann, and Ruth says “My friendship with Mary Ann has been lovely. This lady has always made herself available to answer my questions, give her opinion on many things and been a positive help to me.”

In typical Mary Ann fashion, when she’s asked about what she’s most proud of, she says it’s been the impact that she’s had on people’s lives. Not just those that she’s been directly advocating for through her work, but the students that she has taught over the years. Knowing that her influence on students is something that will see them having a similar impact with their own clients and students brings a beaming smile to Mary’s face.

Mary Ann may have had to slow down in recent years, but her influence is still visible to see most notably through work she has done for the Manawatū Community Trust. She was one of the key personalities behind Feilding health Care, which was a seven year process that she saw through from start to finish, and through their social housing and general wellbeing initiatives which are still thriving today. And she’s also currently working on a book that documents some of the earliest settlers in Feilding, ensuring that there is a tangible recorded history for future generations.

She’s sacrificed her own health for the benefit of others, as noted by her nominator Norelle Ward who says, “Her cheerful disposition and approachability has probably landed her with more volunteer work than she could handle, but she takes it on willingly and with grace and energy”. She’s still keeping up with her professional networking and she still takes an active interest in the work that up until last year she was so heavily involved in, but she’s more than happy to potter around in her garden weeding, or looking after her grandchildren who bring her so much joy.

Mary Ann was never one for the limelight. She doesn’t like being at the front of projects or speaking to them to the media about them, she’s much more comfortable being in the background and pushing for things to get done behind the scenes.

When asked what community is to her, she says it’s simply well-being. Both physical health and mental health, because you can’t have one without the other she emphasises. It’s this simple philosophy of hers that has seen our community benefit more than we ever could have, had Mary Ann not met that ratbag all those years ago.