It's been a good innings for Thelma Luxton. For 48 summers, she has kept score for cricket matches for the Taranaki Cricket Association, and has scored matches for everyone from Waitara High School to the Cricket World Cup - along with her volunteer work. Now in her eightieth year, Luxton has been recognised with a Queen's Service Medal in the New Year Honours for services to the community and cricket.
"It was about the middle of the year I got a letter. I was quite surprised," she said. "I suppose it's nice to be recognised." She first picked up scoring at Waitara High School, when they were struggling to find someone to come out on a Saturday. "I didn't ever play; I just liked scoring and watching the game, and even when I had a young family I used to pack them up on the Saturday morning and take them off to country cricket." She has been based at Pukekura Park, which she says is the best ground in the country, and one of the best in the world. "It's no smaller than one of the boundaries at Eden Park and certainly no smaller than some of the grounds in the UK. "Sometimes you feel like yelling out to them and saying 'move the fielder'. "It's a very strategic game. There's also a lot of luck in it, as I think the West Indies are finding out. "It's a thinking game."
She has seen some changes in nearly five decades in the scorers' box - including the arrival of iPads and fewer cricket clubs - and made a lot of memories too. "Probably the most recent one was Tom Bruce in his first Twenty20 game at Pukekura Park and putting the ball out of the ground. The people I've met; things that were done. Even at one stage helping to dry a pitch in Invercargill so we could have a game and helping to roll the wicket."
She enjoyed watching Ali Jordan, Ian Snook, Dean Robinson and Will Young. "It's good to see these younger ones carrying on and doing so well. It was a pity that Jordie Barrett didn't stay playing cricket." She thinks each format has a place, but personally she would prefer to go to a test match. "I have been to the Oval in the UK and I saw Viv Richards' last test for the West Indies."
But it's not all about the leather on willow - Luxton has owned several businesses in Waitara and invested a lot of hours in community volunteering from Soroptimists International Waitara to the North Taranaki Healthcare Trust, leading the fundraising for the $1.5 million for the new Health Centre. She and her late husband, Keith, have four children and five grandchildren. "Society would not survive if it doesn't have volunteers and there's no use saying it's up to them to do something. It's up to you to do it."
But looking back, she says the thing she is most proud of is her continuing involvement with Waitara High School and the Massey Trust at the school, which was established from the leftover funds raised after the library fire in the 1980s. And she's not slowing down yet - she's got a challenge from Taranaki Cricket to score for them for 50 seasons. "I've got another two seasons after this so we'll see."