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Issue 92, March 2006

Tribute to Marjorie Heads

It was with great sadness that the Wellington Association learnt of the death of Marjorie Heads on February 17 at the age of 78. Marjorie was the first Social Worker for the WHDA and held this position for 5 years before retiring in 1993. In those 5 years, Marjorie was fully dedicated to the HD community and she worked endlessly and with great success to improve the care and support for those with HD and their families as well as sharing her knowledge and expertise with care-givers and her professional colleagues.

Marjorie had a deep understanding of Huntington’s Disease and in her position as Social Worker, she took on the role of advocate for the rights of those with HD – she fought for better services, more and appropriate support, and better understanding of the impact of HD on family members. Marjorie recognized the importance of adequate food intake for those with HD (she would often buy bananas and biscuits for her clients to boost up their calorie intake), she understood the need for regular help in the home and she obtained it and she promoted support groups for those with HD and their families. She spent endless hours at the Department of Social Welfare (now Work and Income) fighting for the various benefits, which she knew her clients were entitled to. She also wrote prolifically to members of Parliament explaining the impact of Huntington’s and fighting for better services. Her energy was endless!

Marjorie travelled long distances (as far as Gisborne and New Plymouth) to visit family members and provide them with the information and support they needed. She became well known throughout the country for her compassion and knowledge of HD.

Marjorie believed that information was power and that only with better information, could family members make informed decisions about their future. With this in mind she started the national Huntington’s newsletter and she used to virtually write the whole thing herself in the beginning. It is a fitting tribute to Marjorie that the Newsletter has continued to grow and currently reaches over 800 readers in NZ and overseas.

Such was Marjorie’s commitment to the HD community, that for many years after her retirement she attended most functions of the Association and followed with interest the latest research on the condition.

Marjorie has made a far-reaching contribution to the HD community nationwide and this community has lost a great champion and friend. All our thoughts are with her family.

Dorothy Tortell

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