Hundreds farewell Sir Wilson Whineray

By Kieran Campbell

Sir Wilson Whineray smiled as he lay in his hospital bed last week and spoke about the All Blacks' attempt to break the record for the most consecutive wins.

Dr Tom Marshall, a lifelong friend, read to Sir Wilson from the New Zealand Herald where he was mentioned as the captain of the All Blacks team in the 1960s that owned the record.

Sir Wilson smiled and opened his eyes.

"I wish them well," he told his friend.

On Saturday Dr Marshall visited Sir Wilson again before the All Blacks game against Australia.

It would be the last time they talked before Sir Wilson died on Monday.

"I like to think he waited until he knew his record was intact (before he passed away)," Dr Marshall told mourners at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell this afternoon.

In a moving ceremony, Sir Wilson was described as a loving father, inspirational sportsman and successful businessman.

His son, James Whineray, paid tribute to "a very special man".

Sir Wilson was the third born of five boys and attended Auckland Grammar, where he was reputed for his sporting talents.

He met his wife Elisabeth at a dance in Palmerston North.

One week later and after a date to the cinema, Sir Wilson was off on his first overseas rugby tour.

James said his parents kept in contact through letters and married four years later in 1959.

He described his father's vast successes as a sportsman, businessman and family man.

"Dad used to say that a rich life was not measured by the amount of money one has in the bank but by the wealth of life experiences," James said.

"By his own definition, dad was a very rich man."

Dr Marshall was a student at Auckland Grammar when he first heard of Sir Wilson's reputation.

The pair met in 1955 and 14 years later became neighbours in Epsom.

"We developed a very close and enduring friendship," Dr Marshall said.

He said he, Sir Wilson and another neighbouring family shared a close bond. They helped paint each other's homes and it was there Dr Marshall learned of Sir Wilson's leadership and delegation qualities.

He shared in Sir Wilson's health care and said his last month was "harrowing".

But he said Sir Wilson approached his final days with "fortitude, courage, determination and understanding".

Rugby legends are among the crowds farewelling All Blacks great Sir Wilson Whineray at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell this afternoon.

Former players Sir Colin Meads, Sir Brian Lochore, Waka Nathan and John Graham are among them.

Dean of Auckland, the Reverend Jo Kelly-Moore, said the hundreds filling the cathedral were "a tribute" to the significant life led by Sir Wilson and a symbol of the "immense respect" for him.

Sir Wilson, considered one of the greatest All Blacks, is survived by his wife Lady Elisabeth and children James, Kristen and Susan.

He died at Auckland City Hospital on Monday, aged 77.

- APNZ

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