Rotorua and Te Arawa have farewelled a treasured friend, uncle, mentor and decorated war hero after the death of David Parata Te Moutere Ransfield.
Hundreds gathered at Pikirangi Marae on Friday to pay their respects to Mr Ransfield who died in Whakatane Hospital after several years of illness and war injuries, on Tuesday last week surrounded by family.
He was 73, never married and had no children.
According to his family Mr Ransfield enlisted in the New Zealand Army in 1967 under the name of his cousin Arohanui Len Ropeta, because he was too young to join the army.
He served in Malaya and Vietnam, and his deeds during the later conflict earned him a Distinguished Conduct Medal, one step down from a Victoria Cross.
He was one of six school mates from Whakarewarewa School to serve in Malaya and his father Major Honoiti John Ranapiri Ransfield served in the 28th Maori Battalion's B Company.
As a Lance Corporal in 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment he was sent to Vietnam in 1968.
On June 22, he was second in command of a nine-man patrol ambushed by about 70 to 80 Viet Cong troops. His commanding officer was wounded early during the battle and he took command of the remaining men.
According to his official citation he was also wounded, but fought on bravely "firmly controlling the fire of the riflemen and encouraging them with cheerful comments while his wounded commander was freed to control supporting fire and armed helicopters".
He "not only skilfully applied the firepower of the patrol but also collected all available grenades and threw them personally from an exposed and dangerous position; he watched the arrival of enemy grenades and, by warning the riflemen, arranged for each grenade to be kicked away before exploding".
"Throughout the action he showed courage and leadership of the highest order, which contributed to the patrol remaining steadfast, thereby turning what could have been a tragic loss into a clear defeat of a superior enemy force," the citation read.
His nephew Phillip Taikato, a long-serving and highly decorated former soldier in the French Foreign Legion and now policeman in Wellington, said Mr Ransfield was from a long line of warriors who served New Zealand in every conflict since the Boer War.
He said Mr Ransfield was also a keen hunter and fisherman, held strong "old school" principles and was the reason he joined the military.
"I got into a bit of trouble in boarding school so they sent me to live with my uncle David. I remember watching the film The Deer Hunter with him not knowing what he had been through and what he had done.
"We kept in touch when I joined the Foreign Legion ... and we formed a really good bond.
"He had his values and he really stuck to them, he was old school - respect, integrity, empathy - all these things were part of his framework."
His niece Tui Ransfield said he was a descendant of illustrious South Island chiefs who helped drive Te Rauparaha from the South Island.
"Uncle David treasured all his nephews and nieces and was always in our lives, including all of our grandchildren. My father John is deeply sad his brother is gone as he is the last souvenir of that generation.
"He spent his last 30 years helping other veterans get their war pensions and welfare benefits and everything that was entitled to them."