Decorated ex-SAS soldier and helicopter pilot Steve Askin died fighting February's devastating Port Hills fire from the air.

The 38-year-old father of two had been drafted in to combat the blaze that threatened hillside homes. At the height of the fire, the experienced pilot was heading to a pond to refill his monsoon bucket when its cable struck the tail rotor causing the helicopter to crash.

Today, his widow Elizabeth Askin speaks for the time first and pays tribute to the man Kiwis voted the Herald's New Zealander of the Year People's Choice winner.

I cannot begin to express how thankful I am for the out pouring of love the children and I have received, we are so blessed to receive the gifts that came through the Give-a-Little page and the countless other gifts and the support shown in so many different ways. I am overwhelmed with the thoughtfulness, kindness, love, prayers and generosity expressed to the children and me.

This journey is giving me a deeper appreciation of the pain and hurt in the world, and the wonderful kindness that is also in this world.

Steve was much more than a decorated soldier and experienced pilot to his family. For us he was a loving solid family man, a loyal friend, son, brother, husband, father and employee.

For those of us who knew him personally, he was humble, honest, trustworthy, a hard worker, story-teller, an encourager, always helpful and generous. He had a strong reassuring presence, funny with a great sense of humour.

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I loved hearing him laugh. He lived life to the full and inspired others to do the same.

The moment I started dating Steve life got more interesting. On our first date he took me through my paces, a 5am windy helicopter ride, followed by a long walk around cliffs, then free-diving for paua and crayfish in freezing water in our bathing suits.

I knew a future with this guy would never be boring, and I was right. He introduced me to a whole other way of living which in part could be summed up in the question "What is around the next corner?"

I gained so much from Steve in our years together, and it is extremely hard knowing that he won't be around to teach his children his enthusiastic approach to life.

Though none of us can fill his shoes, I am thankful to his family and loyal mates, and my family and friends, who all endeavour to do everything they can to love and support me and our children, giving the children great experiences, while acknowledging their father.

Personally I continue to learn from Steve. I know what he would do in certain situations, and how he would always encourage me. Steve's positive attitude toward life is one of the things that gives me courage and confidence to move forward through this grief.

I am so grateful for things that I have learned from Steve in the years we were together; they will always stick with me. Steve loved life, he said he needed ten lifetimes for all the adventures he dreamed about, and to achieve all of our goals.

I grieve so much for my children because I know what an awesome father they have lost, I was so pleased knowing what a man of great character and fun the children had for a father.

Steve and I have a strong faith in Jesus, the values that go with being a Christian is what drew me to him. His strong integrity and loyalty to friends and family were what I respected about him most.

I would also thank God for putting us together, for the great team we were and the strong marriage we built.

My respect and love for Steve grew deeper and deeper as the years went by. I miss him enormously; I am devastated and heartbroken by the huge loss of my partner in life. I am grateful for the years we had together and the awesome children we were blessed with. The pain will always be there, when you love greatly you grieve greatly.

Steve Askin was one of 10 finalists for the Herald's New Zealander of the Year People's Choice. The others were: Bronia Tindall and Fabrizio Clementi, Nathan Spitzer, Lance O'Sullivan, Marnie Prickett, Sarah Thomson, Andrew Little, Andrew Nicholson, Sarah Cato, and the people of Kaikoura and Waiau.