The last surviving company commander of the 28th Maori Battalion has died.
Major Hone Hikitia Te Rangi Waititi, also known as "John the Major", died on Monday at Tauranga Hospital. He was 91.
Major Waititi, of Te Whanau a Apanui and Ngati Porou, embarked with the 10th reinforcement in 1943 during World War II.
He was wounded three times in Italy but stayed on with his battalion despite being offered the option to return home.
Major Waititi was made a Companion of the Queens Service Order in 2009 for his work with young people and families in the Bay of Plenty.
He was chairman of the Te Kaha Co-operative Dairy Company for 30 years, as well as being a founding trustee of several land trusts and serving as chairman for Raukokore School and Te Whanau a Apanui District High School.
Maori Affairs Minister Dr Pita Sharples saluted Major Waititi for his contribution to Maori.
"His humility and leadership by example were outstanding qualities that inspired."
Major Waititi's body was taken to his marae, Kauaetangohia, at Cape Runaway for his tangi. He will be buried tomorrow.
He is survived by his wife Judith Ann and three biological children, Teia, Kahurangi and Haimona. A son, Reece, is deceased. Waititi also had seven other children he has raised - Wally, Bobo, Willie, Huriana, Rhys, JK and Mama (deceased).