Christchurch City Council worker Joseph Tehau Pohio was trying to help someone else when he was hit by falling debris shortly after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake.
His cousin, Rodney Pohio, said it was heartbreaking but characteristic of 40-year-old Joseph to have been looking out for others.
Joseph had been in the city centre having lunch when the magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck.
Rather than get himself to safety, he made sure others were getting the attention they needed.
"The fact he was helping someone else... I understand an old lady got hit in the first shot and he was attending her, as he does. Shortly after he got hit, caught in the back of his head with debris."
Rodney said Joe, as he was known by family, had put in long hours as a Civil Defence volunteer following 2010's September 4 earthquake.
His friends even turned up to his recent birthday decked out in emergency gear, as a bit of a laugh and nod to his work, Rodney said.
"We had a big party at his parents' place. All the tributes were just remarkable. It was quite humbling and really nice to know one of your cousins [is] so well regarded by people. It's just incredible."
Rodney said Joseph was single, though his friends were "were always fulltime trying to find him a partner".
"He had a lot of women who loved him because he was loveable sort of guy."
Joseph is survived by his parents, Arnold and Joy, his sister Hayley and his nephew Max.