Kelvin and Helen Banks, recipients of the 2016 Frank Penn Memorial Award. Photo: Kate Russell.

Nelson couple win NZ’s highest rose award

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Kelvin and Helen Banks’ entry into the Nelson Rose Society may have been “accidental”, but 45 years later the long-serving husband and wife duo have been rewarded with the society’s highest honour – the Frank Penn Memorial Award.

Helen joined the society back in 1971 – all because she took part in a radio show quiz.

“The society were holding an autumn show in the Bowater Cars Showroom and, as part of the lead up, the radio programme were running quizzes with a prize of a rose bush,” says Helen. “I won three of the bushes and I received a letter asking me to join the society.”

With two little boys, and not knowing many people in town, Kelvin encouraged her to join.

“I was very shy in those days and Kelvin said ‘you better go meet some people’, so I did.”

Kelvin became a member 14 years later, and together they have been “mainstays” for the society and there isn’t a role they haven’t played.

They have both been office bearers, judges, and show convenors for five national titles.

Helen still holds the position of secretary, while Kelvin has held the title of president, and is now the treasurer and consulting rosarian. Kelvin also helps with organising and setting up shows, while Helen always puts her hand up to organise the meals, raffles, sales tables, and accommodates guests.

The Stoke couple were presented with the award at a meeting last month and say they knew nothing about it, with the other society members playing “secret squirrel”.

“We were just sitting at the meeting, and next minute we heard out names called out,” says Helen.

“We were in complete and utter shock.”

Kelvin is also heavily involved in the Nelson and Brightwater Horticultural Societies, and the Nelson A & P Association.

Helen says it is a hobby that has given them a lot pleasure.

“We’ve met so many nice people. Each rose gathering is now like a family reunion.”

The Frank Penn Memorial Award has been running since 1967, and is presented to a member, or members, of a district rose society who have given outstanding service at a local level, towards promoting roses and rose growing.

Kelvin and Helen are the second Nelson couple to win the award, following Norm and Letty Thawley from Moutere Hills, who won it in 2014.