It was to the tune of an old wartime marching song that the last officer from the Maori Battalion was farewelled in Rotorua.
Hundreds of people, including a strong contingent of returned servicemen and women, filled Living Well Church yesterday to pay their last respects to Aubrey Huia Balzer, former commander of the 6th Hauraki Regiment and officer in B Company, Maori Battalion.
Up until his death last Sunday, while mowing the lawn at his beach house in Maketu, Mr Balzer, 92, was the last surviving officer of the Maori Battalion and in a fitting farewell the battalion's marching song Maori Battalion March to Victory was played as his body was taken from the church.
An honour guard made up of fellow returned servicemen and young soldiers lined the entrance to the church before he was taken away for a private cremation.
The service was taken by John Treanor who said Mr Balzer lived an extraordinary and interesting life characterised by a strong set of principles.
"From humble beginnings Aubrey worked his way from peace, through war and back, once again, to peace," he said.
Born in Whakarewarewa in 1920, Mr Balzer was one of three boys whose father left the family when he was 5.
His mother Ellen Hunt raised her sons by working numerous jobs to put food on their table.
His daughter Colleen Balzer said her father was pig-headed and determined, but most of all a survivor.
"He had a wonderful untrained voice and was a ukulele player extraordinaire.
"He walked confidently in both the Maori and European worlds," she said.
In his early years he was a cadet soldier and also a member of the territorial army before the start of World War II.
He tried to join the army early after war broke out but due to his occupation as a mechanic, he was not allowed to go.
However, when his brothers signed up with the Maori Battalion he joined them, "to keep an eye on" them, his daughter said.
He finished his military career as Honorary Colonel of the 6th Hauraki Regiment, one of the highest-ranked Maori in the New Zealand Army.
Mr Balzer was also a huge fan of motorsport and at one stage built his own midget racing car in the lounge of his Malfroy Rd home. When finished, he removed the front window of the property to get the car out.
Near the end of the service a tribute was made to him by members of the Te Arawa Maori Returned Services League and a bugler played The Last Post and Reveille.
The army was represented by Lt Colonel Julian Sewell, commanding officer of the 3/6 Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.