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Making A'town history: Arrowtown Returned and Services' Association's first female president Rosemary Chalmers, centre, pictured with treasurer Kirsten Dennison, left, and secretary Linda Harrison

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

For the first time in its 100-year history, the Arrowtown Returned and Services’ Association is being led by women.

Rosemary Chalmers, owner of D’Or Hair Stylists, is the organisation’s new president, with fellow local ladies Linda Harrison and Kirsten Dennison as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

For all three, their connection with the RSA is personal.

Chalmers says being appointed president ‘‘makes me quite emotional’’, having grown up in a military family.

Her father, Bruce Henderson, joined the military when he was about 18 years old and went on to serve in Malaysia and went to war twice in the ’60s.

Back in New Zealand, he married Gloria, and in the early ’70s the family, in cluding two-year-old Chalmers, were shipped from Christchurch to Singapore where they lived on a base for a few years, before returning to NZ and being based in Invercargill from about ’75.

In all, her dad spent over 20 years in the military and held ‘‘all’’ of the positions in his local RSAs.

‘‘For me, I just watched all of that growing up — my father’s not involved any more, but my mother’s still involved with the Bluff RSA,’’ Chalmers says.

‘‘It’s a way to give back.

‘‘The numbers were dwindling when we joined [the Arrowtown RSA], and that’s when they opened it up to have associate members to try and keep the RSAs going.’’

Harrison says her involvement is in memory of her dad, Alex Richardson, a WWII veteran who served about four years with the 23rd Battalion in Crete.

‘‘I just grew up with the RSA — we lived in a little place called Mataura Island and dad used to drag us kids around, taking the poppies around all the farms before Anzac Day and going to Anzac services.’’

And for Dennison, her involvement started when her children were young and they attended services — now one of them, George, is serving in the airforce.

Chalmers says the Arrowtown RSA’s in good heart, with a strong membership, and she’s looking forward to expanding that even further.

‘‘Moving forward with the new generation of RSAs and the Poppy [Day] funds, we’re trying to reach out to ex-service personnel from all age groups.

‘‘There are a lot of people in our community who have served and they’re retraining and they’re young.

“We can actually help them, so it’s trying to reach out to a younger generation.’’

Anzac commemorations

Queenstown RSA hosts its usual Anzac Day dawn service this coming Monday at the
Marine Parade Memorial Gates at 6.30am, followed by a parade to the Memorial Centre for wreath-laying.

Arrowtown RSA’s commemoration takes place by the Soldiers Hill memorial, off Durham
Street, with a parade from the carpark at 10.15am followed by a remembrance service at 10.30.

Neither RSA is holding indoor services this year due to Covid concerns.

Meanwhile, the annual Poppy Day street collection is being held around the district today.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz