Donald Garry Fraser, who risked his life to save a wounded police officer during the 2009 Napier siege, has died while cycling during a visit to North Carolina.
Mr Fraser, known as Garry, was awarded a New Zealand Bravery Medal in June 2011 for his role in rescuing Senior Constable Bruce Miller, who was shot during the stand-off on Hospital Hill.
Mr Fraser's wife, Judy, said her husband passed away suddenly from a heart attack while out on a bike ride with his son-in-law, Grant, during a US visit to see daughter Kylee.
She said a memorial service would be held when his body was returned home.
Napier CIB Detective Phil Sayers, who is married to Mr Fraser's daughter Tracy, said the death of his father-in-law was "surreal" for the whole family.
"In your heart it feels like he's on holiday but in your head you know what's happened. It's a huge loss to us all."
Mr Sayers said Mr Fraser, 70, was a hands-on grandfather to their two children, who loved getting on his bike with the kids, taking them swimming and kicking a ball around.
He loved cycling and exercise and in some ways it was a fitting way for him to go: "He went doing something he loved. It's just too soon, he had so much to live for and so much to look forward to."
Mr Sayers described Mr Fraser as a humble man who didn't like to talk about his actions during the Napier siege. He was almost embarrassed of the attention and felt it was undeserved.
"Even though we all know it was deserved," Mr Sayers said.
Mr Sayers was there the day of the siege and said he was initially unaware of Mr Fraser's actions.
"I had a few rough words with him when I saw him there, I thought he'd just come down the street to watch."
He said it wasn't until later in the day he learned of what Mr Fraser had actually done.
Eastern Districts operations manager Inspector Mike O'Leary, who was the forward commander the day of the siege, said he was "extremely sad" to hear of Mr Fraser's passing.
He said Mr Fraser directed the first police officers on the scene to Mr Miller, who had been severely wounded by Jan Molenaar's bullets.
Mr O'Leary said Mr Fraser had been "quite rightly" awarded the bravery medal.
"Personally and on behalf of the police, I'd like to say Garry was outstanding for his actions on that day. It's something we will always remember and it led to Bruce being saved."
Christine Jackman lived next door to Mr Fraser and was also awarded a New Zealand Bravery Medal for her part in saving Mr Miller.
Mrs Jackman said yesterday she was "gutted" to hear about what had happened.
"It's just a complete shock. He was a true hero, he really was. And funny too, he was a lovely guy."
She said just weeks ago Mr Fraser had shown her where he was planning go to riding while overseas.
Kevin Kalff, former area commander of Napier, said yesterday he had been out riding with Mr Fraser not long before he left for America.
Mr Kalff said he was "deeply saddened" to hear of his passing.
"We have huge respect for him and are eternally grateful for what he did for the police staff on that day."
Reports from the time say Mr Fraser and Mrs Jackman were leaving home around 9.45am on Guys Hill Rd in Napier when Molenaar's shooting spree began.
They saw Mr Miller had been shot and was on all fours, attempting to crawl to safety up Chaucer Rd.
Mr Fraser drove his car down from Guys Hill Rd to assist the wounded officer.
He then called police to advise them Mr Miller was down.
Amid a hail of bullets Mr Fraser and Mrs Jackman told police of their exact location before taking shelter behind a car.
Three officers then arrived on the scene and ordered the two civilians to retreat to safety further up the road.
Mrs Jackman agreed police officers could use her car to evacuate the wounded police officer.
A citation from the time the bravery awards were announced said Mr Fraser and Mrs Jackman acted bravely in going to the assistance of Mr Miller and they had enabled him to be evacuated sooner than might otherwise have been the case.
Mr Fraser and Mrs Jackman had their bravery medals presented, alongside 10 police officers, St John ambulance paramedic Steven Smith and civilian Leonard Holmwood, at Government House in Wellington.
Mrs Jackman previously told Hawke's Bay Today neither she nor Mr Fraser had acted out of bravery. She said they simply saw an officer down and followed their instincts to help him.