A prominent Maori broadcaster and former soldier from Northland has been described by whanau as an amazing father, mentor and friend who fought cancer with an "epic mentality that exhibits all his amazing strength".
Kingi Ihaka, of Te Aupouri, died early yesterday morning aged 74. He is survived by his wife Janet, his children Stephen, Jodi and Blair and his mokopuna.
Daughter Jodi Ihaka, who followed in her father's broadcasting footsteps, said while it was a sad time they were focused on celebrating his life.
"My father is a former soldier who fought cancer with an epic mentality that exhibits all his amazing strengths. He was an amazing father, mentor and friend. He provided us with so many amazing opportunities growing up and made us believe we could do whatever we wanted," she said.
Kingi was born in Te Kao and moved to Auckland as a 7-year-old where he attended Orakei Primary School. His son Stephen said his father was ridiculed by his peers for being unable to speak English but was taken under the wing of Tuhoe educationalist John Rangihau who taught Kingi to speak English.
He left high school and was in the 1959 Kippenberger class where he then joined the army as a signalman. In 1962, at 19, he entered the New Zealand Special Air Service. He served in Borneo and remains the youngest soldier to participate in the NZ SAS.
From there he had a successful career with police and then went into Maori broadcasting where he was one of the pioneer Maori broadcasters at Television New Zealand. He also worked for Radio Waatea and Maori Television.
"My father was a trailblazer. He loved broadcasting and he excelled at it. He was a great communicator as a result of the English lessons he'd received but he was also an expert in Maori language, being his first language, and loved the reo. But to me it was his love of family, his love of his wife. We all felt very special to Dad and his passing will be mourned," he said.
Kingi was taken to the Holy Sepulchre in Khyber Pass last night and this morning he will be taken to Potahi Marae in Te Kao where "his people are waiting for him".