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Woman turns tragedy into life-saving legacy

After losing her dad to a sudden and devastating heart attack, Dorothy Cutts made a decision to keep other families together for longer.

Dorothy Cutts has decided to establish a legacy for the Heart Foundation.

But Dorothy Cutts isn’t your average horse enthusiast. In 1979, at the age of 39, she climbed into her horse-led sulky at the Cambridge racecourse and went up against a field of whip-wielding men. Dorothy and her horse, Kenworthy, shocked spectators and competitors alike when they dominated the field and raced home in first place. 

Only three race day licences were granted to women in New Zealand that year – making her one of only three women in the country to be deemed a professional within the sport. For her efforts, Dorothy won a stunning silver tray which is now on display at the Noel Taylor New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame Museum at Alexandra Park.

Dorothy still remembers the excitement of that race. “My father was so proud of me,” she warmly recalls. Little did Dorothy know that not long after that race she would lose her father, George, at the age of only 67.

Taking a break from milking on the family dairy farm one day, Dorothy and George were out exercising the trotting horses. After a fast workout on the track they returned to the stables and, without warning, George suffered a heart attack. 

“I wanted to establish a legacy to make sure other families could stay together for longer.”

Dorothy and her mother Mary called for an ambulance but, tragically, it was too late. “It was just so sudden,” Dorothy says. “One minute he was getting off the sulky, next thing he just went down flat on the floor. He was gone. His life was cut short and our family of three became two.”

Although it happened decades ago, Dorothy says that was when she knew she wanted to establish a legacy to make sure other families could stay together for longer. So she began to support the Heart Foundation.  

"I’m confident the Heart Foundation will put my gifts to good use,” Dorothy says. “Whether you have a little bit or a lot to contribute, it all helps.”

"They run programmes to encourage healthy lifestyle changes and, with my help and the help of others, they can fund more research into the prevention and treatment of heart disease. I encourage more people to get behind them.”

Dorothy has since sold her dairy farm and retired in Northland. She generously used this opportunity to increase her annual donations to the Heart Foundation – as well as leaving a gift in her Will to continue her support long after she’s gone.

"Through my accountant, I established the Cutts Charitable Trust so that an annual sum will ‘kick in’ once I ‘kick the bucket’, so to speak,” she explains. “It was easy – I just told him what I wanted to do and he set it all up. 

“Whilst I hope to stick around for a long time yet, as I am busy with my community work and volunteering, I wanted to make sure the Heart Foundation could expect these much-needed funds. I told them what I was doing so they could plan for the future and I was delighted to receive a visit to thank me for my support.”

Now in her seventies, Dorothy monitors her cholesterol and is very mindful of her own heart health. She remembers her beloved father and how proud he was of her achievement on that race day. There’s no doubt he would be just as proud of the support Dorothy is now providing in his name.

Heart disease remains New Zealand’s single biggest killer. Every day, more than 16 people lose the fight against heart disease. Sadly, many more lives are left deeply affected in its wake.

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