Bowls champion on and off green

Waitaki Citizens Award recipient Gilda Sparks at her home at Iona Home. PHOTO: NIC DUFF
Waitaki Citizens Award recipient Gilda Sparks at her home at Iona Home. PHOTO: NIC DUFF
A well-earned retirement.

Gilda Sparks has played an active role in the North Otago bowling community for over a quarter of a century.

She was the secretary for North Otago Indoor Bowls for 26 years.

The Citizens Award came as "an absolute surprise" she said.

"It was a lovely surprise.

"They kept it a well-hidden secret."

Originally from Whangarei, Mrs Sparks moved to Oamaru in 1978 with her husband, Ron.

After he died, her neighbour encouraged her to take up bowling.

"I said [to her] ‘I don’t think I’m ready for this’ and she said ‘the longer you leave it the harder it’ll be’ and that was the beginning."

Taking up the sport really helped her meet new people after losing her husband and now she passes on those words of wisdom to others.

"I’ve said that now to quite a lot of people who have perhaps lost a husband, or a wife. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to be able to do it. It’s very easy to just sit there and do nothing."

She took over as secretary after the previous one, who was a farmer, had been transferred.

At the ensuing meeting where they tried to decide on a new secretary, no-one put their hand up.

"I finally weakened and said I’ll do it until the end of the season, six months. And that six months has got longer and longer." Mrs Sutherland said.

Her role has included publishing the minutes from their meetings, organising transport and accommodation for teams heading away to tournaments and any other odd jobs that needed doing.

It was important for people to get involved in clubs and organisations like she has to "to meet people and interact" she said.

She encouraged anyone to take up bowls.

"No matter how active or how strong you are, it keeps you moving without having to be tied up.

"It covers all age-groups. From 6 or 7-year-olds to where you can get my age."

As well as serving as secretary, she was an active player as well representing North Otago at countless tournaments.

Her first big local tournament win was the Champion of Champions fours title.

She is also a qualified umpire and took over as treasurer when the regular was away.

Mrs Sparks officially retired from the role last week.

While she was looking forward to having the extra free time, it was a massive part of her life she was leaving behind.

"It felt weird waking up on that Tuesday morning thinking, ‘I don’t have to do this any more’."