Obituary: Distinguished officer a 'true gentleman'

By Jill Nicholas

2 comments
Don Macfarlane died in Rotorua on Thursday night.
Don Macfarlane died in Rotorua on Thursday night.

With the death of Tamakore Donald (Don) Macfarlane, Rotorua has lost an officer and a gentleman.

Mr Macfarlane, 78, was one of the first "homegrown" army officers to rise to the rank of colonel, and one of the first officers with Maori blood to train at the Canberra-based Duntroon Royal Military College.

Born in Rotorua of Ngati Wahiao descent, he was educated at Whakarewarewa Primary and the then-Rotorua High School, captaining the first XV, playing in the first XI, boxing and excelling at athletics.

He earned his first pocket money at age 9, caddying at the Arikikapakapa golf course where, in recent years, he played regularly and served on the committee.

Graduating from Duntroon as a lieutenant, his distinguished military career included two years as aide de comp to Defence Force chief General Sir Leonard Thornton.

Seconded to the British Army in Singapore, he was decorated for his involvement in jungle warfare.

A company commander in the latter stages of the Vietnam War, he subsequently spent time at Indonesia's Bandung Military College becoming a qualified interpreter of that country's language.

Five years as New Zealand's military attache in Jakarta followed. Promoted to the rank of colonel, he commanded the Army's Task Force One until his retirement in 1983.

He and his wife Helen, an Australian army officer's daughter, opened Poppy's, Rotorua's first fine-dining restaurant, which they ran for 18 years.

The couple also ran the Incas and Legends cafes.

Mr Macfarlane served on the board of Waiariki Institute and iwi trusts, and was a member of the Rotary Club of Rotorua leading youth-orientated programmes.

He was also active in the Rotorua RSA.


He became politically active, campaigning at local and central government level.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick described him as a "true gentleman, part of the very fabric of our city".

MP Todd McClay paid tribute to him as "a lovely man, very generous with his time".

To his family, he was a person who believed passionately in loyalty, instilling very strong values in them.

Mr Macfarlane is survived by his wife Helen, sons Warwick and Christopher, daughter Tiffany and eight grandchildren.

He will lie at the Ngati Wahiao marae, Whakarewarewa, tomorrow with his funeral service at St Faith's church on Wednesday, followed by internment in the whanau's Horohoro urupa.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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