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Southland mortuary technician Bill Little, who was awarded the unsung hero award by the Southern Excellence Awards on Thursday, said the recognition came ``out of the blue''.
Though he shed a tear when accepting his award, Mr Little said the recognition was "nice'' but a little overwhelming.
"It's pretty hard to accept that, but I'm handling it.
"It's just in my nature,'' he said.
Mr Little "fell'' into the career "very accidentally'' when the hospital was desperate for a replacement mortuary technician.
"I foolishly put my hand up and said I'll help you out.''
Now, 23 years later, he could not imagine working anywhere else.
"This is my life and I enjoy it. It sounds horrible, but I enjoy my job because of what I do.
"Knowing that it is the last thing that I can ever do for my client and that in itself is satisfaction and know that I've done my best for them, and for their family.''
While his job was "very taxing'' at times, the values he had learnt as a young man working with St John had helped him to cope.
"I've always had that compassion for other people, and St John has got a lot to do with that. The values which were instilled in me right way back then and I carry those right through my whole working life.''
Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the awards acknowledged the ``very important roles'' staff played in providing care and support across the southern health system.
"Bill has been in this position for over 20 years and despite the challenges it inevitably brings, he acts with compassion, kindness and respect,'' Mr Fleming said.
"He continually goes beyond the call of duty and it's this dedication that makes such a significant difference to families and communities impacted by loss.''
Another organisation recognised as team of the year was the Lakes District Hospital nurses who played a "pivotal role in providing high quality in-patient and emergency care in Queenstown''.
There were nine categories in the awards.
Southern Excellence Award Winners. -
Improvement of the Year Award
Bowel Screening Programme.
Breaking Boundaries Award
Jillian Boniface and Leanne Liggett (refugee immunisation calculator).
Team of the Year Award
Lakes District Hospital Nurses.
Outstanding Leadership Award
Dr Jenny Dodds, quality and performance improvement facilitator.
Rising Star Award
Emma Bell, bowel screening programme manager.
Unsung Hero Award
Bill Little, mortuary technician.
Care and Compassion Award
Dr Olukayode Fayomi.
Health, Safety and Welfare Award
Bronwyn Gibbon (Sanderson), sterile services technician.
Maori Health Development Award
- Sharon Reece