Colleagues salute 'a wonderful woman'


30 August 2021


Tributes have flooded in from past colleagues of former nurse and stalwart of the community Ailsa Stewart QSO, who died last Wednesday, 25 August.


Ailsa, former Principal Nurse, Whanganui District Health Board member, district councillor and a supporter of numerous organisations, passed away at Whanganui Hospital, aged 77. 


“Ailsa leaves a huge legacy and we are deeply saddened by her passing,” DHB chief executive Russell Simpson said.


“It was a fitting tribute to farewell Ailsa with a guard of honour as she was taken away from Whanganui Hospital for the last time.”


He said he would miss “her presence, her unwavering support and lovely manner”, adding that she was never short of advice to offer him.


A post on the DHB Facebook page elicited numerous comments reflecting on the loss of someone who devoted her life to caring for others.


‘What an amazing life Ailsa led and influenced so many people … involved in many, many organisations and causes.”


“Any nurse, midwife or doctor who went through Whanganui Hospital in the past 50 years knew her.”


“A beautiful lady, so devoted to nursing and always a smile on her face.”


“What a wonderful woman ... we were so fortunate to have her involvement across our community. Some people really do make a difference and Ailsa is definitely one of them.”


“Amazing lady. She will always be remembered by Castlecliff residents and her support to retain services and for social justice.”


“So rich in knowledge and the history of where we lived and worked.”


These were just a few of the comments from those who had worked alongside Ailsa in the health service.


Ailsa was a nurse and midwife and then became a trainer and assessor of nurses and caregivers.


She was sent to Tonga by the New Zealand government to work there, and then became the Principal of Nursing in the Solomon Islands.


After 55 years of nursing, she retired and turned her skills to being a volunteer archivist of the 125 years of the Whanganui District Health Board and its predecessors.


Ailsa received many honours, including the Women's Suffrage Medal in 1993, and the Queen’s Service Order Medal in 2006. She was acclaimed as one of the 100 Zonta Women of Achievement and made a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary International for making a difference to the lives of New Zealand women and for her huge community input and spirit.