Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Over 1000 mourners farewell schoolboy Stephen Dudley

The funeral of 15-year-old Stephen Dudley, who died after he was involved in a fight after rugby training last Thursday. Photo / Dean Purcell
The funeral of 15-year-old Stephen Dudley, who died after he was involved in a fight after rugby training last Thursday. Photo / Dean Purcell

The family of Auckland schoolboy Stephen Dudley hope his death will serve as a constant reminder of the tragic, unintended consequences that violence can have.

Thousands turned up this morning to farewell the 15-year-old Kelston Boys High student, who died after an alleged assault following rugby training on Thursday afternoon.

His family spoke of a kind and generous young man with a love of playing his Xbox and sport, indicated by a pair of still-muddy rugby boots and ball placed atop his coffin.

Family spokesman Albert Dudley said after his funeral at Kelston intermediate School today that the huge numbers who turned out showed how many lives Stephen touched in his short life.

It was also indicative of a concern in the community about violence.

"It became quite apparent on the second day that there was more to this than just the passing of a relative and there were implications of significance to the community," he said.

"It is time for us to look at where we are up to in terms of violence and the family's view is that violence is not okay in any form in any place, whether that be on the football field or in the home or in the community. There's an emphatic no to violence coming from the family. Stephen will represent that sentiment and we intend to follow that through."

Mr Dudley said it was not a time for anger or retribution, but a time to honour Stephen.

His family wept as his coffin was carried into the hall at the intermediate school, where Stephen's father Brent is the caretaker.

He said he wanted to focus on the positives of Stephen's life and not the tragic consequences of his death.

"If we did that my son would have died vain," he said.

"Stephen was quite simply the best son a father could have.

"Some people just weren't meant to be here long. Some people are just too special."

Mr Dudley said more than 1000 people had visited the family's home in the past few days to pay their respects to Stephen and offer their support to the family.

"We thought we we knew our son before but there were things we found out in the last few days that we never knew and we are even more proud of him now."

It was initially going to be a private ceremony "but Stephen was all about community".

"We are in the month of Matariki I believe he's in those stars now."

Stephen's sisters Talita and Lisa struggled to hold back their tears as they spoke of their "idyllic brother".

"He was known as Stephen the rugby player, Stephen the basketball player, Stephen the mate, one of the bros, Stephen the gentleman ... but to us he was just Stephen," Talita said.

"We love him so much and I'm trying not to be sad because I know he lives on in my siblings and me and I'll hang onto that forever."

Stephen's Kelston Boys High schoolmates lined the road and performed a rousing haka as his coffin was carried to a hearse.

He will be buried in Waikumete Cemetery in a spot overlooking his family's home.

"He looks down on us and rightfully so. He deserves to be up there," Mr Dudley said.

- APNZ

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