The Tauranga man who drowned in Napier refused to give up on his dream of becoming a teacher despite facing homelessness after shifting to the Bay of Plenty.
Joseph Terrill, 51, had recently moved to Tauranga from Napier to study teaching at the Bethlehem Institute of Technology but after a while could no longer afford rent.
In the last month of his life, Mr Terrill and his wife of seven months had lived in a parish hall in the Tauranga suburb of Ohauiti thanks to the Tauranga Moana Maori Mission.
He and his wife were determined to hang on despite couch surfing and living on people's aroha because of his commitment to teach.
Mr Terrill was swimming at one of his favourite Hawkes Bay spots on Tuesday afternoon when he got into trouble at the Napier beach and drowned in the high swells about 3pm.
Missioner of the Tauranga Moana Maori Mission, Reverend Christopher Douglas-Huriwai, said Mr Terrill's commitment to become a teacher meant despite struggling to find a house and job in Tauranga, he and his wife Anahera wanted to stay on and see through his study for the year.
"He and his wife were determined to hang on despite couch surfing and living on people's aroha because of his commitment to teach - which was really a commitment to help young people," Rev Douglas-Huriwai said.
"He was quiet, quite reflective sort of person with a deep and abiding faith. He took challenges in his stride as something to be lived up to rather than something to bow down to."
When death happened suddenly, pain and hurt could be deeply felt and people could often dwell in it, but to move on the reverend believed an example should be taken from the person's life.
"Joseph's commitment toward his calling to teach, which is a noble one, has a message for his wife and whanau to learn from his resilience, his faith, his commitment."
Through various circumstances the couple found themselves down and out while living in Tauranga and not eligible for government assistance.
Rev Douglas-Huriwai was connected to the couple through Kai Aroha, a community food service.
Mr Terrill and his wife lived in the parish hall from October 3 to October 23. Mr Terrill finished studying for the year, then headed back to Hawkes Bay to earn some money over the orchard season to set themselves up better for next year's study.
The parish hall was usually used for cups of tea after church, Sunday school and youth groups but was fully kitted with a bathroom and kitchen.
Mr Terrill and his wife were regulars at Kai Aroha, a feeding programme for the homeless, and had become friends with the Kai Aroha team over the six months.
Founder Tania Lewis-Rickard said to lose one of their own was something close to their hearts.
"At Kai Aroha we don't only feed people, we develop relationships with them, this is our way of humanising the poor and homeless in our community.
"Anahera and Joseph were a picture of hope for the homeless, they were the poor among the poor yet their lives were rich in kindness, warmth, generosity and they were determined to better their lives," Ms Lewis-Rickard said.
Mr Terrill would not let the poverty-stricken situation he was in stop him from achieving his goal of studying in tertiary education.
"I remember both of them saying to me at their last accommodation that they were just grateful to be alive and have their health."
Kai Aroha would continue to support Mrs Terrill as she started a trust for the homeless in honour of her husband.
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