Last respects paid to Sir Paul Holmes

By Abby Gillies

Sir Paul Holmes has been remembered as a man dedicated to his profession, committed to his family - and fallible.

Family, friends, colleagues and dignitaries paid their final respects to the highly-regarded broadcaster at his funeral service at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell, Auckland, today (Fri).

Along with Sir Paul's wife Deborah, Lady Holmes, and children Millie Elder-Holmes and Reuben Holmes, Cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee, Labour leader David Shearer, and Auckland mayor Len Brown were among the huge congregation filling the church.

The 90-minute service, led by Sir Paul's friend Reverend Ann Mellor and the cathedral's dean The Very Reverend Jo Kelly-Moore, paid tribute to an "extraordinary man''.

But in their tributes, those who knew him well also didn't shy away from speaking about his shortcomings and difficult times.

In a play on Sir Paul's description of former UN boss Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie'', former broadcaster John Hawkesby ended his tribute by farewelling the "cheeky little whitey''.

The 62-year-old was "way too young'' to die, said Mr Hawesby, who described how after some initial animosity, the pair later became good friends.

He would have been delighted to see the turnout at his funeral, and to have his face on almost every magazine on supermarket shelves this week, Mr Hawkesby said.

"Well, Sir Paul you'd be very pleased to see your pulling power is as good as ever.''

Peter Beavan, a friend since high school, acknowledged the closeness Sir Paul and Millie developed following her public battle with drug addiction.

His friend had been looking forward to enjoying his retirement and the life he had built with Lady Holmes in Hawkes Bay, "but it was not to be'', Mr Beavan said, referring to the broadcaster's recent health problems.

Another long-time friend Mike Williams said Sir Paul revelled in the English language, and political ambitions - once indicating he would like to run for the Auckland mayoralty.

Mr Williams also spoke of Sir Paul's battle against methamphetamine following Millie's addiction to the drug.

Colleagues remembered him as dedicated, hardworking, loyal and a passionate storyteller.

Brent Harman and Bill Francis worked with Sir Paul at Newstalk ZB, where he quickly became widely respected and had a big impact on the station's success.

"He wanted success more than anyone I ever knew. He also worked harder than anyone I ever knew,'' said Mr Francis.

Paralympic swimmer Duane Kale spoke about how Sir Paul's documentary about paralympic sport inspired him to become an athlete.

His work as patron of Paralympics New Zealand had a huge impact on the organisation, Mr Kale said.

In an emotional final tribute to their dad, Millie and Reuben took to the podium.

Millie tearfully read a quote by her dad from Holmes at Large, a collection of his Herald on Sunday columns. It was written about her battle with P.

"Love always wins. It might take longer than evil and hatred, resentment and envy, but love always wins,'' it said in part.

Dame Malvina Major and Helen Medlyn sang `Flower Duet' from the opera Lakme for the hundreds gathered.

As the congregation sang Amazing Grace, Sir Paul's casket, covered in white roses and orchids, was carried out of the church and through a Westpac Rescue Helicopter guard of honour with Lady Holmes walking behind.

Students from his former college, Hasting's Karamu High School, performed a haka for their first knight.

Outside, attendees described it as a beautiful, fitting, and honest service.

"Paul would be proud. He deserves to be remembered as a man who laughed and loved'', said television presenter Petra Bagust.

Len Brown noted the "wonderful stories'' from different aspects of Sir Paul's life, and said the huge turnout said a lot about who he was.

- APNZ

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