New Zealand: Former Governor-General Dame Catherine dies

By Syed Mujeeb

In a statement, Dame Catherine’s family said she died peacefully this evening, after a long illness – at home with her family around her. She was aged 90.

“Our beloved Cath has died peacefully tonight, 31st October, after a long illness: at home with family around her, as she wished,” the family said in a statement.

“She was a woman of amazing energy, intelligence and warmth. She had a long and distinguished life of public service. She was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother; and a confidante, mentor and friend to many more. We will miss her more than we can ever say.

“In the current circumstances, we cannot and would not ask others to join us to farewell her. She had wanted a private cremation, and as she was both a scientist and a good citizen, so it will be. We hope to arrange some way to honour her memory in public, in future”.

“We are grateful to all her friends, and to our extended family, and to the carers, especially her GP, who have also supported and loved her over the years.”

Dame Catherine was New Zealand’s first female Governor-General and served in the position from 1990-1996.

She was born in Auckland and attended Auckland University, where she met her husband Bob, according to her profile on the Governor-General’s website.

They married in 1951, had four children and eventually separated.

Dame Catherine was president of the Play Centre Committee, sat on an education board and was a part-time zoology tutor before she was elected to Auckland City Council in 1971.

She remained a councillor for 12 years while working at Auckland University, and in 1983 was elected Mayor of Auckland – the first woman to hold the position. She was mayor for seven years before being appointed Governor-General.

She was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 2002.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today that she was deeply saddened by the death of Dame Catherine Tizard. She paid tribute to her long and distinguished life of service to New Zealand.

“Dame Cath was a true trailblazer for women in public life,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“She took her first steps into governance on her local Play Centre Committee, while raising four children. She was elected to the Auckland City Council in 1971 and in 1983 became the first woman to be elected Mayor of Auckland.

“On leaving that role, she became our 16th Governor-General and also the first woman to hold that office, from 1990 to 1996″

“As Governor-General she succeeded in making the office of Governor-General more accessible for New Zealanders,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Dame Cath was a member of the Order of New Zealand, and a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order, as well as holding four separate damehoods.

“These honours reflected her extraordinary life of public service,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“On ending her term as Governor-General, she continued her involvement with a large number of community and arts groups.

“In everything she did, she demonstrated her remarkable qualities of leadership and determination, combined with a down to earth approach and an irrepressible sense of humour.

“Our thoughts are with her family at this time,” Jacinda Ardern said.

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