Saturday, July 20, 2024

Jan Pentecost, QSM – Tireless Grey Power advocate steps down

Jan Pentecost has been a tireless advocate for seniors throughout her 14 years on the Federation Board. Initially she was the National Secretary, then stepped up as the first female president of Grey Power, four years ago.

Her quiet determination to see the Federation as an effective advocacy organisation has been unwavering throughout her service. Regrettably, she has decided to retire unexpectedly early in order to devote the time needed to address her family health needs. Those of us who have worked with Jan very much appreciate her service to Grey Power and the seniors on whose behalf we advocate.

The following comments reflect the high regard her work was held in by a selection of the many people who dealt regularly with her.

Former Grey Power Federation President Tom O’Connor recalls:

“When I was elected as vice-president in 2014, I was relatively new to Grey Power,” said Tom O’Connor.

“But, from an early stage, the one person who impressed me with the ability to deal with difficult situations was board secretary Jan Pentecost, who seemed to be a lone voice of reason and logic at times, particularly with political issues and working with Government ministers who held her in high regard.

O’Connor recalled the federation board at the time was beset with a number of personality clashes, which made life difficult for the secretary.

“These events were not unusual for any large organisation of volunteers, but more of a measure of the dedication and passion people brought to the job.”

Also at this time the national president became quite ill and O’Connor had to step into his job at short notice. “Without Jan’s calm advice, understanding and genuine empathy for those involved things would have become impossible.”

O’Connor said, when he was elected as president in 2016, he relied more than ever on Jan’s ability to see and understand the cause of the few internal personality problems that still existed.

“I don’t think many people really understand how much effort Jan put into the success of the job or how much her family contributed to that success. She was away from home on federation business sometimes for days on end.

“I knew from an early stage that she would be an ideal president and I spent some time persuading her to stand. Her QSM and life membership of the federation in 2018 were both well-earned. Senior people, Grey Power members or not, owe her a huge debt of gratitude, as I do.

Jane Wrightson  | Mana Ahungarua / Retirement Commissioner recalls:

“I first met Jan when she was Board Secretary of Grey Power and Grey Power and came to meet me as the new Retirement Commissioner,” said Wrightson.

“We took a while to get used to each other. Shortly afterwards Jan became president: she and I marvelled at there still being a ‘first woman’ badge in the 21st century, but the first woman president of Grey Power she was.”

Wrightson said she had thoroughly enjoyed her interactions with Jan and was very sorry she has had to step away.

“Jan has always been a principled and pragmatic advocate and a credit to Grey Power. She clearly understands the changing face of New Zealand – and the impending changing face of retirees.”

Heading membership organisations was never easy and Wrightson said she admired Jan’s perseverance and efforts to bring people together.

“I know there is much debate within Grey Power, as there should be, and it’s incumbent on the president and executive to draw those schools of thought together and come up with useful contributions to public policy. It’s no doubt stressful, but Jan always presented a calm face to the world. This made her a respected advocate for an influential organisation.

“I particularly valued Jan’s help when I became aware of the problems being encountered by superannuitants stuck offshore when the borders closed.

“In this unprecedented situation the law was being applied narrowly and people who had been away for over six months were having their pensions stopped and repayment demands made while being unable to return. I was pleased to advocate successfully for them, bolstered by Grey Power’s support.

“I will miss Jan very much and I send her and her family my best wishes. I’ll look forward to continuing to engage with Grey Power. Ngā mihi.”

Diane Turner, Director, Office for Seniors recalls:

In her role as the Director of Office for Seniors, Turner worked with Jan for the past eight years, initially as the secretary for Grey Power and more recently as the president.

“Jan worked tirelessly to represent the issues and interests of the members – whether it was addressing a particular concern or advocating for wider policy or legislative change,” said Turner.

“She also supported us in our work in many ways, including responding to information requests or putting forward members to participate in workshops/meetings, sometimes at very short notice.

“Jan has always strived to make a positive difference to those who
she has served and put others interests first. She did it with determination and grit and always in good humour.

“In resigning from the Grey Power executive after her long service we congratulate her on her achievements.  Her legacy will live on.”

David Marshall, Vice-President & Acting-President Grey Power NZ Federation recalls:

Jan has been a tireless advocate for seniors throughout her 14 years on the Federation board. Initially she was the national secretary with a real passion to ensure all records were scrupulously kept, and that all correspondence from Grey Power members, and the public, was faithfully followed up by herself, or the responsible board member or NAG Chair.

I joined the board shortly before Jan stepped up to become the Federation’s first female president over the last four years. She diligently worked to restore broken relationships with key politicians, government agencies, kindred organisations, and commissions so that our advocacy work could reach those who had the power to make a difference for seniors. Jan can be very proud of the progress made under her leadership.

At times her leadership frustrated those of us who wanted to see more rapid change, as she was committed to trying to get all board members on the same page, usually without revealing her preferred options.

Some saw this as a fault, while others recognised this as part of her inherent desire to carefully listen to all stakeholders before making long lasting decisions.

Jan was a champion of our grassroots membership and the time she spent on listening to, and responding to members’ local and personal issues as seniors was outstanding.

As president, Jan set a high standard for press releases, submissions, and supporting advocacy documents to ensure that the Federation maintained its credibility in fulfilling its mission publicly. This did not always sit well with some who preferred to shoot from the hip on current issues without the support of diligent research to back up the statements they made.

We have lost a committed advocate who often worked 60 hours per week to ensure that the work of Grey Power as the leading organisation advancing the issues affecting New Zealand seniors was continued. As a volunteer her service was unstinting, despite the challenges and obstacles she encountered in leading the organisation. In building the credibility of the work of the Federation she has left a legacy on which others can build as we move forward.

We sincerely thank Jan for her outstanding service over the past 14 years and wish her and Tony the very best in a well-deserved time of retirement and refreshment.

Related: Grey Power loses tireless advocate for Seniors

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