The man responsible for establishing Lions in New Zealand, Keith Mitchell QSM, died on Sunday.
Keith Mitchell (a former Jaycee), along with others, worked tirelessly throughout the 1960s and 1970s on the expansion of Lions Clubs International throughout New Zealand. During 1962-63 Keith, almost single handed, chartered some 25 new clubs and, the following year, a further 21! Keith was Lions' first Executive Officer although, in those early days, the term used was ‘Lions Clubs International Representative’.
Keith arranged the first official visits to MD202 (New Zealand) by International Presidents Finnis Davis (1960 - 61) and Per Stahl (1961 – 62). It was the extensive publicity surrounding these Presidents that assisted the early club extension.
No one will ever know the kilometres travelled by Keith in his reliable Rover from Wellington to Kaitaia in the north and Bluff in the south - and almost every town in between. Often accompanied by Past International Directors Pat Ryan or Alex Grieve and members fo neighbouring clubs, Keith would use every connection possible, however, tenuous, to encourage service-minded citizens to form a Lions Club to serve in their community.
Keith was closely associated with Lloyd Morgan, the first and only Kiwi Lions International President, supporting him as he moved up the ladder, firstly as an International Director and then during his campaign to become International President in 1979 - 80.
But equally importantly, Keith was a club member. Despite the heavy workload during his term as International Representative, he continued to play an active role in the Lions Club of Wellington Host. He and wife Merle took their turn on the Zoo train roster and he seldom missed more than one or two meetings a year.
His knowledge and wisdom was always available to every Lion and will be sadly missed.