Rotorua's official historian dies aged 82

By Abigail Hartevelt -
The Maori Party said thanks to Don Stafford a lot of Te Arawa's history would never fade. Photo / Daily Post
The Maori Party said thanks to Don Stafford a lot of Te Arawa's history would never fade. Photo / Daily Post

Rotorua's official historian Don Stafford has died at the age of 82.

Dr Stafford died in Rotorua Hospital at 12.15pm yesterday surrounded by his family.

His daughter Jenny Barlow said her father had been in hospital for two weeks but had been unwell for three months.

Family members gathered at his Whakaue St home yesterday afternoon.

Mrs Barlow described her father as the "most wonderful non-judgmental, kind gentleman whose manners were impeccable".

"He still opened doors for people and took off his hat for females. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word."

Even though his work in preserving Rotorua was important to him, it was his family who came first, Mrs Barlow said.

His last words were about how much he loved his family - something he would often tell his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

The Maori Party today paid tribute to Dr Staffrod saying Te Arawa history would "never fade" because of his work.

Dr Stafford was a "storyteller, a keeper and sharer of knowledge", Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell said.

"Thanks to Don a lot of Te Arawa history will never fade among the generations and this is one of the greatest legacies he has left for Te Arawa.

Dr Stafford was awarded an MBE, a CBE and an honorary doctorate from Waikato University. He was regarded as Rotorua's Pakeha kaumatua.

He was the author of 23 books and was Rotorua Museum's founding curator.

Mrs Barlow said her father was a very humble man who mixed with royalty and "regular" people the same.

"His great love was regular people," Mrs Barlow said.

Her father had on Saturday told her about a box of notes he had written about his life which were stashed away in his laundry.

Mrs Barlow told The Daily Post she was yet to look through the box but that her father could have been thinking about writing an autobiography although he had never spoken of that to her.

Son Mac, who lived in Rotorua, said his father was an "unbelievably fantastic father, grandfather and great grandfather."

"My life with him is my fondest memory - my 58 years of absolute love from him... 58 years of absolute friendship, love, steerage, he steered me out of some tight spots over the years. We were always mates," Mr Stafford said.

Two grand-daughters spoke of how much they loved their grandfather. Emma Barlow said although her grandfather was well known and respected by many in Rotorua he was a "regular grandpa" to her. "He was just our grandpa," she said. Anna Stafford said she would always cherish the four hours she spent with her grandfather at his home last week while he was at home for a few days.

Don Stafford's body will be lying at his home from today and it was hoped his body would be taken to Tamatekapua Meeting House at Ohinemutu tomorrow when the public would be able to pay their respects before his funeral at 11am on Friday at St Faith's Church.

His late wife Nancy died just over 12 years ago. He is survived by his two children, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

- With NZPA

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