A huge turnout’s expected at today’s memorial service for a long-time Queenstowner highly regarded for her kindness, infectious smile and high energy.
Andi Rapley, who died last Thursday, aged 58, of ovarian cancer, worked at Queenstown Airport for the past eight years, initially at the helpdesk, and latterly as operations duty manager.
Prior to that she was a fitness instructor and worked at various gyms.
Her husband of 31 years, Beau Rapley, says “I almost feel like I’ve been riding on Andi’s coat-tails”.
He recalls Andi was first diagnosed in November 2017, after which she underwent surgery and chemotherapy.
Friends, including the airport community, raised funds for costly drugs with a ‘Stand by Andi’ campaign.
The couple celebrated her recovery with a three-month European holiday last year.
“We had massive days hiking and biking, and when she came back she was probably fitter and stronger than she’d been for a long, long time,” Beau says.
She returned to work and was even doing pump classes till five or six weeks ago, he notes.
When her cancer returned, “we were absolutely devastated – we were looking forward to another 20 years together”.
Andi died in the arms of Beau, her son Adam Nicolle, to her first husband Steve, and daughter Taylor Rapley.
Beau says Andi hitchhiked to Queenstown with her best friend from Gisborne, when she was only 15, and never left.
“She was a Gisborne chick, but one thing she said over the last year, she’s now a daughter of the Southern Lakes – she loved the mountains.”
Beautiful both inside and outside, “she didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody,” Beau says.
“She’d give me a call in the afternoon and say, ‘oh, darling, if you get home first, can you put an extra chicken in the oven – I’m bringing some people home that are trapped at the airport’.
“She’d be forking out money to young travellers that were stuck there.”
To enable airport staff to attend today’s service, staff from other airports have volunteered to cover for them.
Beau says “the support and love we’ve had from the community has been absolutely mind-boggling”.
“It absolutely makes us proud to be local.”