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In loving memory: Lady June Hillary

Our famous climber’s lovely wife will forever be held in the highest esteem
Lady June Hillary looking into the distance

Her late husband, mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary, may have been the globally celebrated one, but Lady June Hillary earned huge international respect for her tireless work for the people of Nepal.

Tributes have poured in for June since her death on June 1, aged 92. One of the most poignant came from Tashi Tenzing. He’s the grandson of Tenzing Norgay, who also made the first ascent of M Everest along with Sir Ed in 1953.

“A great lady has departed,” wrote Tashi.

June was the patron of the New Zealand Nepal Society and served as the Honorary Consul-General of Nepal to New Zealand for many years. The current Honorary Consul of Nepal, Dinesh Khadka, described her as “an exceptional individual whose contributions to Nepal and the Nepalese community in New Zealand were immeasurable.

“Her unwavering commitment to the welfare of the Nepalese people has left a lasting impact on our community. Lady June’s compassion, dedication and service legacy will continue to inspire us all.”

A portrait of Lady June and Sir Edmund Hillary together
The devoted pair at Sir Ed’s graduation in 2006.

Sir Ed founded The Himalayan Trust in the ’60s, which helped to build schools and hospitals in the region. They said she played a key part in supporting his work for the people of Nepal. The Trust also remembered her as “funny, caring and with a tremendous sense of style”.

Sir Ed was June’s second husband – her first was his close friend, Antarctic explorer Peter Mulgrew. When Ed was unable to make a sightseeing flight to Antarctica in 1979, Peter went in his place. He tragically died in the Erebus plane crash. Ed’s first wife Louise and daughter Belinda were killed in a plane crash in Nepal four years earlier.

June and Ed married in 1989. He died, aged 88, in 2008. June died three days after the 71st anniversary of his record-breaking climb to the top of Mt Everest.

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