Retired Canterbury paramedic honoured


Bernie Power.
Bernie Power.
A stretcher, a "few bandages" and oxygen were the only tools of the trade Bernie Power had when he began working on ambulances in Canterbury.

Mr Power, who retired as an operational paramedic in 2010 after 52 years with St John in North Canterbury and Christchurch, still volunteers for the organisation today.

While his St John work required a huge focus, he also found time to immerse himself in the Rangiora RSA, and the McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band.

Mr Power’s significant contribution to the Waimakariri District for more than 60 years through these organisations, has been recognised with the awarding of a King’s Service Medal (KSM) in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Mr Power, who adheres strictly to the mantra of St John — ‘‘People helping People’’, says the award was a huge surprise.

He thought he was being scammed when he received an email back in April saying he had been nominated for a KSM. But once it was confirmed in May, having been approved by King Charles, he accepted it was a reality.

He says his St John work, along with his other community commitments over the years sounds like ‘‘I should be about 180 years old’’.

A supportive family, particularly his wife Jenny, however, helped make all his commitments to St John, and his outside interest with the local Pipe Band, and the Rangiora RSA Club possible.

As a St John volunteer Jenny helped man the phones at the weekends while he manned the ambulance attending everything from sports events to accidents and incidents.

‘‘It could be very demanding and a very selfish thing to do in those days. I am very grateful for my family’s support,” says Mr Power.

Mr Power was a full-time truck driver for Rangiora Freight during most of his St John volunteer years, which meant he could be on the road over the weekends leaving Jenny in charge of the phones.

He joined St John as a cadet when he was 11-years-old.

‘‘It was something I wanted to do rather than become a member of scouts and the like,’’ he says.

Mr Power began crewing as a volunteer when Rangiora received its first ambulance in 1959, rose through the ranks to district superintendent of the North Canterbury sub district in the early 1980s, before taking up the full time ambulance officer’s position in Christchurch in the late 1980s.

He qualified as an ambulance officer in 1985 and went on to become a paramedic ‘‘where I stayed until I finished’’.

Mr Power’s volunteer work spanned almost 33 years before he had to “relinquish” it after gaining a full time job in Christchurch on ambulances in 1989.

He worked in the city for about 18 years before returning as one of two full-time ambulance officers in Rangiora.

‘‘There was nothing like the equipment and gear we have today,’’ says Mr Power.

‘‘But few patients suffered unduly,’’ he says. He was admitted to the Order of St John as a Serving Brother in 1986, and in 1993 was promoted to Officer of the Order of St John in 1993, gaining his 50 year certificate in 2008.

In 2011 he was elected to the Rangiora Area committee and joined the Hato Hone St John North Canterbury Fellowship.

Since 2020 he has volunteered at the St John Opportunity Shop in Rangiora, and remains a volunteer for St John today.

Mr Power says he resigned from working full-time at St John because he felt it was time for a change.

Today the job required high-level specialised training ‘‘which is really good’’.

‘‘But I just felt when I turned 65 it was time to retire. I have really enjoyed the job and I met a lot of people.

‘‘But shift work can be very anti-social and I want to spend more time with my family.

‘‘There was not many weekends in 52 years that I did not work for St Johns,” says Mr Power.

He served for six years as the Rangiora RSA Club vice-president and 12 years as President between 1994 and 2016. He is now a Patron of the club and vice-president of the RSA executive.

He was instrumental in the redevelopment of the RSA Club buildings between 2016 and 2019, and has been active in fundraising for the provision of mobility aids and other services to members.

He first joined the North Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band in 1962 — now the McAlpines North Canterbury Pipe Band — becoming Drum Corporal, Drum Sergeant, and then Drum Major. Mr Power served as vice-president of the band for more than 25 years, and is a life member.

He remains a non-playing member of the band, having to give up active duty due to a ‘‘crook shoulder’’.