Blanket Man farewelled

By Hana Garrett-Walker

Mourners braved a blustery Wellington waterfront this morning to publicly farewell Ben Hana, the Blanket Man. Photo / Hana-Garrett-Walker
Mourners braved a blustery Wellington waterfront this morning to publicly farewell Ben Hana, the Blanket Man. Photo / Hana-Garrett-Walker

Mourners braved a blustery Wellington waterfront this morning to publicly farewell Ben Hana, known to many simply as Blanket Man.

Mr Hana, who became a local icon and was often seen on Courtenay Place wearing just a loin cloth, died in hospital on Sunday.

It has not been revealed how he died.

At a public memorial service at Waitangi Park, about 150 family, friends, and members of the public turned out to remember a man who did not like rules and a chose to live on the street.

His white coffin, adorned with pictures of flowers and messages from family, arrived at the park at about 10.30am before mana whenua kaumatua Samuel Jackson led the ceremony.

Speaking at the service Mr Hana's brother, Tony Hana, said Mr Hana had chosen a life of protest, after he left school when he was 15.

Mr Hana's lawyer for 11 years, Maxine Dixon, told the crowd that she would see him about three times a week, when he would turn up to her apartment with eggs and ask her to poach them.

"He was, I think, a person who had some very clear ideas about how the world should be.

"I think he was a very complex personality.

"He didn't like rules.''

She also spoke of his love of cannabis, or "peace'' as he called it, and his hatred of alcohol, although he was addicted to it.

Attending the memorial today was Wellington City Council southern ward councillor Paul Eagle, who said he was there because he was concerned for all the homeless in Wellington.

His ward, which covers the Newtown suburb, was home to many people who lived on the streets and he said there were many blanket men in Wellington.

"It just saddens me.''

Manuel Wallace, who met Mr Hana on the streets of Wanganui, and now also lived on Wellington's streets, said he admired Mr Hana's choice of life.

He was surprised with the range of people who showed up for the memorial service, but not how many were there.

"He's known all around the world, so it's not surprising.''

Dan Umaga, whose niece married Mr Hana's son, said while he had never met Mr Hana he was humbled by how many people showed up to remember him.

Wellington City Council helped the family to organise the service, which was followed by a private burial at Makara Cemetery.

On Tuesday this week, Wellington businessman Gareth Morgan offered to pay for the funeral, which the family could not afford.

Meanwhile, the council has arranged for a condolence book to be left at the Downtown Community Ministry, where Mr Hana was a regular.

A makeshift tribute at Courtenay Place, where hundreds of messages have been written on the walls of the ANZ Bank, will stay in place until Tuesday.

Photos will be taken and given to Mr Hana's family, and the tribute will then be removed.

- APNZ

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