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Royal message for Princess Alexandra Village’s 20th birthday

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on July 03, 2024

Residents at Princess Alexandra Retirement Village were thrilled when a touch of royalty was added to the village’s 20th anniversary celebrations in the form of a personal message from the princess herself.

Princess Alexandra, the Honourable Lady Ogilvy, is a first cousin of the Queen and was the namesake of the hospital originally built on the Battery Road site before Ryman Healthcare acquired it.

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Cheyne Chalmers, Ryman Healthcare’s New Zealand CEO, read out the message, sent on headed paper from Buckingham Palace, to surprise the gathered residents and special guests which included Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan.

“On the occasion of the 20th anniversary celebrations, I send good wishes to all at the retirement village in Napier, New Zealand,” the princess wrote.

Now 87, Princess Alexandra is patron to a number of mental health, palliative care and international aid organisations having trained as a nurse herself in the 1950s.

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Village Manager Clare Bower describes the Princess Alexandra community as 'a family' (above) while Ryman Healthcare's NZ CEO Cheyne Chalmers holds up a special message from the princess herself (below).

IMG_1179 (1) (Large)Secretary of the Princess Alexandra Medical Trust Shaun Brown told the story of the Trust’s formation and how the princess came to be affiliated with the original hospital.

During a visit to New Zealand in April 1971, she was invited to the Jaycee Charity Ball which was a fundraiser to celebrate the opening of what was then the Napier Community Trust Hospital. This was later named after the princess in recognition of her assistance in fundraising efforts, he said.

Along with the building’s history, recollections of the charity ball were shared by residents Graham and Bev Steere, with Graham working as a wine waiter on the night and then immortalised in a painting now on display in the village.

Memories and stories from the past 20 years of village life were shared by long-serving staff members Chrissy Toa and Vicky Weekley and resident Elizabeth Powdrell, who was overwhelmed to see her name etched on the new plaque (top pic).

"Unit 406 looking to Ahuriri Park and the ranges, planes landing, snow and gorgeous sunsets became the views from my new home for 18 years," said Elizabeth.

"I have met wonderful staff and friends over my time here and am very thankful to have chosen Princess Alexandra for the peace of mind for my family and for me to call this my home."

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From left: Village Manager Clare Bower celebrates the village’s 20th anniversary with Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan, resident Elizabeth Powdrell, Support Advisor to Katie Nimon MP Sophie Smith, resident Merle Hirini, Ryman Healthcare’s NZ CEO Cheyne Chalmer, General Manager Operations – NZ, Liz Dilger and residents Graham and Bev Steere (above) and a packed out atrium to celebrate the special milestone (below).

IMG_1176 (Large)“I enjoy working for Ryman because not only do they look after the families and residents, but also the staff, who are like family. We’re multicultural but we’re a big family,” Vicky said.

This sentiment was echoed by Village Manager Clare Bower: “Over the past two decades we have built not just a community, but a family – a place where friendships have blossomed, memories have been created and lives have been enriched.”

Then it was time to unveil a celebratory plaque and cut the tiara-bedecked birthday cake, with help from Elizabeth and resident of 18 years Merle Hirini.

Cheyne said it was wonderful to celebrate the occasion with the residents and team at the village.

“It makes me extremely proud to hear how much our residents enjoy living at Princess Alexandra Village, which is our only village with a royal namesake.

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Princess Alexandra resident Merle Hirini helps Ryman Healthcare's NZ CEO Cheyne Chalmers to cut the cake, made by Village Chef Ana Vukovic (above) while Shaun Brown stands with Cheyne beside the painting depicting the charity ball attended by Princess Alexandra in 1971 (below).

IMG_1210 (1) (Large)“Hearing all the fantastic stories and shared memories shows just what a wonderful community this village has become.

“The staff have outdone themselves time and time again, with numerous awards for the kitchen team, the gardeners, and also caregivers, nurses, activities and sales staff.

“That shows the sheer breadth of excellence here at the village. Even with the challenges of COVID-19 and Cyclone Gabrielle, they have faced them with calm efficiency and I am truly grateful to know the village is in great hands.”

Joining in the celebrations were Deputy Mayor Annette Brosnan and Sophie Smith, a support advisor of Katie Nimon MP, who congratulated the residents and team members on the milestone.

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About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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