The memory of a former Hawke's Bay man will live on through his family, friends and hundreds of foster children.

Frank Whanau Pani Haami-Jones, 78, died last month at his family farm in Ruapekapeka, near Whangarei.

Mr Haami-Jones grew up in Gisborne and moved to Hawke's Bay at 17 years old in 1956, where he lived until 1997.

His son, Crete Haami-Jones, said his father was a talented rugby player having been in the legendary 1960s Magpies team alongside Hepa Paewai, who married his sister Kathy Haami.

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He also spent many years fostering children in Flaxmere and Australia and had too many foster children to count.

He was always a kind man and when the family house in Flaxmere was burgled in the late 80s with Crete's brand new electric guitar being among the items taken, Mr Haami-Jones feeling sorry for his son bought him an electric bass guitar by accident.

"It was so nice of him to do that for me, I did not have the heart to tell him it was the wrong type of guitar. I took it thankfully."

Crete went on to become a professional session bassist for artists such as Hollie Smith, Olmecha Supreme, Vernon Reid, Tiki Tane, Jonathan Crayford/Myele Manzanza and Ria Hall.

His son will always remember Mr Haami-Jones as "a leader, a quiet achiever, a provider, a loving husband, a family man, generous to a fault, a local sporting legend and an extremely hardworking man".

In 1999 he received a Queen's Service Medal for service in the field of foster care; foster parent and resident caregiver.

Between 1971 and 1997 he fostered hundreds of children in Flaxmere and when he moved to Darwin, Australia, in 1997, he continued this work.

His friend, Hastings District councillor Henare O'Keefe, said his death was a huge loss for the region.

He was well known for his sporting prowess as well as being a stalwart in Flaxmere for fostering more than 300 children, Mr O'Keefe said.

"That's a very, very special person."

Some of his foster children sill live in Flaxmere and have made great contributions to the community, he said.

"A huge loss, very sad.

"He was a good man ... a gentleman ... he had movie-star looks, a very handsome chap.

"He was humble and gracious. People like that don't come along too often."

During his time in Hawke's Bay Mr Haami-Jones was also supervisor and foreman at Tomoana Meat Works (1958-93) as well as spending time as a shed hand, shearer, butcher and welder.

His rugby career included playing for the Hawke's Bay Magpies, MAC Rugby Club, Hastings Old Boys Rugby Club and Havelock North Rugby Football Club.

He also coached a number of teams including Havelock North to two seasons as Maddison Trophy winners.

He left Hawke's Bay for Darwin after the closure of Tomoana Freezing Works to coach rugby with South Darwin Rugby Club.

He retired in 2009 and returned to New Zealand in 2017 living in Ruapekapeka.

He married his wife Tangi in 1960, having three children and 14 grandchildren.