Lady in red . . . Barbara Hutchby attends a Stroke Foundation conference in Greymouth in 2013. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

by Shelley Inon

Barbara Hutchby’s involvement with families affected by strokes has been longer than most.

Mrs Hutchby’s long involvement – as a field officer, volunteer and long-time supporter – was acknowledged by the South Canterbury Stroke Club late last month.

The 90-year-old has fond memories of the mid ’80s to ’90s when she was the South Auckland field officer for the Stroke Foundation Counterstroke, as it was known then.

She would attend the headquarters on Auckland’s North Shore every day before “picking an area” in one of the suburbs she covered.

“It was a great time of life,” she said.

Mrs Hutchby was well known at Middlemore Hospital then.

“I knew the nurses and everybody.

“It was so simple in those days.”

Her job was mainly to talk to the relatives of the person who had been affected by stroke.

She said she would tell them what was available, “and let them know they weren’t forgotten”.

Mrs Hutchby was well suited to the role after going through the process with her husband.

They were living in Waimate when her husband, Norman, had his first stroke on Labour Weekend in 1984.

Mr Hutchby had been an engineer at Waimate Hospital, but they had to move away because the close proximity to his former workplace meant he kept ending up back there.

“They would ring up and say ‘Norman was over here again’.”

The family made the move to Auckland, but a little over a year later, Mr Hutchby had a brain-stem stroke and died in January 1986.

That led to Mrs Hutchby’s long involvement with stroke support.

“They came and asked me to run the club.”

She become a field officer a year later.

Horsing around . . . Turning up in style in the mid 1980s to a ‘mode of transport day’. that Mrs Hutchby would now be called a “team-building” day. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mrs Hutchby’s grit and determination is not an unusual trait in her family.

Her father started working at 13 years of age.

When Mrs Hutchby was young they had a transient life with him buying one pub and then another.

Despite the odds, her parents became Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Nottingham.

“I come from a good family,” she said.

And she has rubbed shoulders with some very important people.

Mrs Hutchby was an extra on the Lord of the Rings films and – despite signing a contract that they would not bother the stars – had lunch and a chat with Orlando Bloom one day.

“There was nowhere else to sit.”

In early 2014 she finished volunteering, because the family was taking a year-long caravan trip, daughter Jo remembers.

“The caravan trip was mum, me, sister Susan, cat Smudge, and dogs Digby (Shih tzu mix) and Harrison (chihuahua) around the South Island.”

Mrs Hutchby made the most of the trip in other ways, too.

“So – of course – I visited all of the stroke clubs.”

The cat refused to leave the house when they finally settled back in Temuka.

“Probably thought we were moving again.”

Mrs Hutchby has two polite neighbours in the form of Betty and Wilma the chooks.

“Sometimes they try and get in here when it is raining.”