Kingi Ihaka, who died in Auckland on Tuesday morning, has returned to Te Kao, where he was born in 1942.

He is remembered as a distinguished soldier (he was the youngest ever SAS recruit), police officer and broadcaster, but to daughter Jodi he was an amazing father, mentor and friend, who fought cancer with an "epic mentality that exhibits all his amazing strength".

"He provided us with so many amazing opportunities growing up, and made us believe we could do whatever we wanted," she said.

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Prominent Maori broadcaster Kingi Ihaka dies aged 74

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Mr Ihaka, the son of Rev Toro and Kohine (nee Wiki) Ihaka, was born into humble circumstances, a fact that son Stephen said his children had been reminded of "when we got too big for our boots or were skiting".

He worked three jobs to put his sons, Stephen and Blair, through boarding school.

"That's when I learned about getting a bang for your buck."

He moved to Auckland as a child and attended Orakei Primary School, where he was ridiculed by his peers for being unable to speak English. Tuhoe educationalist John Rangihau fixed that.

Mr Ihaka joined the Army as a signalman in 1959, and entered the New Zealand Special Air Service in 1962, serving in Borneo.

He later forged careers with the police and broadcasting, becoming a pioneer Maori broadcaster at TVNZ. He also worked for Radio Waatea and Maori Television.

"My father was a trailblazer," Ms Ihaka said.

"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."

Mr Ihaka was due to arrive at Potahi Marae, Te Kao, yesterday afternoon, and will be interred at Te Kao at 11am tomorrow. He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Janet, his three children and their families.