Philanthropist to pay for 'Blanket Man' funeral

Wellington icon 'Blanket Man'. Photo / Jubalj
Wellington icon 'Blanket Man'. Photo / Jubalj

Wellington businessman Gareth Morgan has offered to foot the bill for Blanket Man's funeral, who died in hospital Sunday afternoon.

Ben Hana, known to many simply as Blanket Man, was a well-known face who often sat or lay against shops and buildings in the capital's central city.

He preferred to wear a blanket and a loin cloth, and was often sighted on the corner of Courtenay Place and Tory Street with an iPod.

A Wellington Hospital spokeswoman confirmed Mr Hana died in hospital at 3.35pm on Sunday. She could not comment on what he died from.

Tributes have been flowing in for the iconic figure, with hundreds of messages, flowers and empty alcohol bottles left at the spot he would often be seen sitting at.

Today, Mr Morgan offered to pay for the funeral - which Mr Hana's family reportedly cannot afford.

"As one Wellingtonian to another I just said 'well I'll cover that'.''

He did not know how much the funeral would cost at this stage, but was talking with the funeral director to make arrangements.

"I've never dealt with a funeral before, I've dealt with penguins ... but the funeral's a new one.''

Mr Morgan said he lived near Courtenay Place and would often talk to Mr Hana.

"I think he was a big part of a lot of peoples' lives, whether they embraced him or resented him. I guess with many Wellingtonians it would have been a bit of a mixed bag, depending on the day.

"He's certainly part of the furniture.''

An announcement has not yet been made on when and where the funeral would be held.

Mr Hana's lawyer Maxine Dixon, who described him as a friend, said he was divisive in many respects.

"He was an intelligent man and while he had been in prison earlier on in his life he had educated himself,'' she told Newstalk ZB.

Mr Hana read books extensively, including on subjects like Chinese history.

"He went through about one a day.''

Ms Dixon said she did not think anyone knew why Mr Hana lived the way he did.

"I think it's complex. Part of it I suspect was a bit of a penance for historical, well I suppose, wrongdoing.''

But she said it also happened largely by accident and crept up on him.

Mr Hana arrived in Wellington from Tokoroa, where he had been living in his car, and could not afford rent, food and "his beloved peace'' - cannabis.

"His disposable income at that stage was about $60 a week, and [the lifestyle] sort of grew on him and he grew to love it.''

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she was "very sad'' to hear of Blanket Man's death.

"He was a very well-known character who obviously lived his life in a very high profile way.''

- APNZ

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