The last of the original members of the exclusive Order of New Zealand has died.
Lady June Blundell, 90, died in Auckland Hospital on Wednesday after a short illness.
Lady Blundell, widow of former governor-general Sir Denis Blundell, received the country's highest honour on February 6, 1988, a year after it was established, in recognition of her outstanding service in community and welfare work. The order is limited to 20 living members at any time.
Son Richard Blundell told The Dominion Post he was sad at the loss of his mother, but the family was feeling very humble.
She was active with St John and Child Cancer right until she went in to hospital, he said.
"We were very lucky in the 28 years since Dad died.
"She found a life of her own that revolved around family and others."
In her time, she had awarded more than 8000 youth St John certificates, Mr Blundell said.
Lady Blundell, a Samuel Marsden Collegiate old girl, had been living in Wellington until she and Sir Denis retired to Auckland.
Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae expressed his sympathy, saying Lady Blundell had dedicated her life to the service of others.
"A softly spoken person who never sought the limelight, she worked quietly and tirelessly on behalf of many community organisations and charities."
She was active in St John throughout her life, was the founding patron of the Child Cancer Foundation in the 1970s, and contributed to the establishment of CanTeen in 1988.
She was also involved with the Homai College for the Blind, Save the Children New Zealand, and the Asthma Foundation.
Child Cancer Foundation chief executive Sarah Thomson said Lady Blundell and her passion for the foundation would be missed.
"[She] was always proud to note that we have stayed true to our mission that ‘every child and their family walking the child cancer journey will never feel alone'."
Lady Blundell is survived by two children and five grandchildren. Her funeral will be at Auckland's St Mary's Cathedral in Parnell on Thursday.
- © Fairfax NZ News