Dedicated. Trailblazer. Inspirational. Good and faithful servant.
These are just some of the words used to describe Alison Davey when the former Cessnock mayor was inducted as a Freeman of the City on Friday.
Cessnock City Council voted at its June 19 meeting to bestow the honorary title on Mrs Davey, in recognition of decades of service to the community.
The Freeman of the City award recognises an individual for outstanding achievement over their lifetime to advance the values of the local government area.
Mrs Davey served on Cessnock City Council for 29 years, including one term as mayor; worked as a teacher and principal at a number of local schools; ran a tuition centre, and has been involved with several community organisations since she arrived in Cessnock in 1960.
Cessnock Family Support Service (which she helped to establish in 1987), Cessnock Chamber of Commerce, Coalfields Healthy Heartbeat, BPW Cessnock, Central Hunter Community Broadcasters, Marthaville Preservation Society and Cessnock Tidy Towns are among the organisations Mrs Davey has given her time to as a volunteer.
Family, friends and former colleagues of Mrs Davey gathered at the council chambers on Friday for the official ceremony.
Former Cessnock Chamber of Commerce president Geoff Walker compered the ceremony and reflected on his time serving on the chamber board with Mrs Davey.
"During that time Alison took on the role of treasurer, a position which is usually the hardest to fill and necessitates a strong commitment in order to meet the governance, legal and compliance requirements," he said.
"I know that Alison took on a similar role with quite a number of volunteer and not-for-profit organisations over a long period of time.
"She took on those roles because not many other people were prepared to do it, because she knew she could do it well, and because if she did not do it, the organisation itself may not survive."
Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon - who served on the council with Mrs Davey for eight years - said Mrs Davey's work in the community, education and local government was an inspiration to many, particularly young women.
"She is a woman of conviction, truly independent, who always puts what is best for her community first," he said.
"Her 29 years on council reflects her enormous commitment to the community, and the support she received from the community.
"She broke the glass ceiling before anyone had heard the words 'affirmative action'.
"She was a pioneer and a pathfinder, an example for others to follow."
Former councillor Catherine Parsons, one of the people who nominated Mrs Davey for the title, said she "could not think of anyone more deserving".
Mrs Parsons praised Mrs Davey's work with organisations including Central Hunter Community Broadcasters, BPW (which helped to establish Cessnock's Australia Day awards), and Tidy Towns.
"Many groups would not exist without Alison being the driving force behind it," she said.
Born in Gunnedah and raised in Maitland, Mrs Davey married her husband Brian, a Cessnock boy, in December 1960.
The couple made their home in Cessnock, and Mrs Davey landed a teaching job at Cessnock West Public School the following year.
She went on to become the first female principal in the Cessnock area at Ellalong in 1974, and three years later moved on to Bellbird Public School, where she was principal until her retirement in 2003.
In 1995, the couple established Cessnock Achievement Centre, offering literacy and numeracy tuition for children and adults.
Mr Davey passed away in 2015, and Mrs Davey continued to provide tuition to local students until June last year.
The tuition centre was yet another way the Daveys contributed to the community.
As Mr Walker explained to the ceremony on Friday, it was not set up to be a profit-making entity; it was there to support further education and development in Cessnock, sponsoring many programs and activities in the area while providing people with skills for life.
Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent said the title of Freeman of the City is not one that is given lightly or freely.
"Those citizens that are nominated to receive this recognition, by their actions, set the very highest standards for themselves," he said.
"They uphold the very highest moral and ethical standards within our community.
"They walk softly, but with great determination.
"They are humble, but stand tall - so tall they give so much of themselves without seeking fame or fortune, or acknowledgement.
"The only reward they seek is achievement, not for themselves but for those whose lives the influence and help along the way."
Accepting the Freeman of the City award on Friday, Mrs Davey singled out the establishment of Cessnock Family Support Service as one of her proudest achievements.
But in typical form, she would not take full credit - saying the Inspector of Schools, Joan Cockerill, germinated the idea with her in the 1970s, and it took until 1987 to come to fruition.
Asked what she loves about Cessnock, she put it simply: "The friendliness of the people".
Mrs Davey, 80, is the thirteenth person to be named Freeman of the City of Cessnock since 1994.
She joins Coogan Frame (1994), Cec Anstey and Fred Yeatman (1995), Mick Frame (1996), Neville Bothwell (2006), Elsie Doyle and John Munro (2007), Marie Davies and Harold Sternbeck (2009), Myra Hill (2012), Bruce Wilson (2013) and Jeff Maybury (2016) on the honour roll.
The Freeman of the City award is the latest in a long list of honours Mrs Davey has achieved since her departure from local government in 2012.
She was made an Emeritus Mayor in 2013, Senior Citizen of the Year in 2016 and this year received a Lifetime Achievement award from Marquis Who's Who.