RIP Joan Porter: Legend

Joan passed away today, she was an amazing woman who will be sadly missed.

Read the Bowls New Zealand story on Joan for the occasion of her 104th Birthday, below: 

Joan Porter recently celebrated her 104th birthday.

Yes, you read that right, 104th!

What a special woman.

She’s very special because having started playing bowls at the Lower Hutt Ladies Bowling Club in the early 50’s, she’s effectively been a member of the club’s ancestor : Petone Central Bowling Club for over 70 years.

She’s very special because in 1962, Joan won the first of 16 Wellington Centre titles, pairing up with the equally formidable Jean Coulson, which started a remarkable run of 4 Centre titles in the 1960’s, 2 titles in the 1970’s, 7 titles in the 1980’s, and 3 titles in the 1990’s.  Her wins from 1962 to 1999 spanned nearly four decades!

And very special also because in 1967, she and Jean claimed the National Pairs title.  And what’s more, to show it was no fluke, repeated the feat in 1983.  The game at Linwood was one which every bowler dreams was in their repertoire of legendary games : two down on the last end, trailing the jack with the second-to-last bowl to equalise, then drawing the last shot to win.

Joan’s very special because she represented New Zealand in the lawn bowls (alongside the likes of Millie Khan) at the one-off Australia Games in Melbourne in 1985 where New Zealand played the States of Australia.

And very special because even when her eyesight began to falter, she continued playing blind indoor bowls.  Up until the very, very special age of 100.

But probably most special is the fact that Joan recently enjoyed her 104th birthday, celebrated with a ‘do’ at the Petone Working Men’s Club. There’s probably only about 25 or so 104+ year olds in New Zealand.  You don’t get more special than that!

That makes Joan almost certainly the oldest Life Member of a bowling club in New Zealand.  Maybe the oldest Life member ever.

“She’s a remarkable woman,” says fellow club Life Member, Christine Robson. “She still lives by herself.  She still enjoys coming into the club for special functions … her daughter Marilyn brings her in.  She was here for the AGM at the end of June, but missed this season’s Open Day because she wasn’t up to it on the day.”

“She just loves catching up with people at the club.”

Club member Yvonne Horsley is equally effusive about Joan.  “You’ll find a plaque for Joan on the local ‘Walk of Champions’ in Jackson Street … she’s one of 180 national sports champions that have their roots in the Petone area.  It’s pretty special.”

But for Brett O’Riley, World Bowls’ Regional Director Oceania, Joan’s specialness isn’t just about her bowls pedigree.

“Sure, Joan epitomises all that is wonderful about our sport of lawn bowls,” say Brett. “As you would expect she’s a great technician, a great coach, but also a great club person.  She’s tough.  She’s very good at remaining unflustered.  And she’s very sporting.”

“But best of all, as a person, she’s very gracious.”

Maybe when you were born in 1918 at the end of ‘the war to end all wars’; maybe when you experienced childhood hardship through the Great Depression; and maybe when you spent a number of years in the Second World War in limbo while your husband shipped off to the other side of the world, then maybe winning or losing a game of bowls got put in perspective.

Thanks for being part of our community, Joan.