It's a year since former Whanganui deputy mayor Rangi Wills died — and his son Jason wanted to mark that.

Mr Wills, a well-respected councillor for 12 years died on November 21 last year, and son Jason and Jason's wife Andrea travelled from their home in Invercargill to be in Whanganui for the anniversary.

Jason decided he wanted to commemorate the occasion by paddling the Whanganui River, something his father did every year as part of the Tira Hoe Waka canoe journey from Taumarunui to Whanganui.

Widow Shirley Wills said her husband had "absolutely loved that journey", and never broke it unless there was a council meeting he had to attend.

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Jason used his dad's yellow kayak and lifejacket and, with his friend Bruce Tonkin, paddled from Pungarehu to Whanganui on Thursday.

"It was a long day but they thoroughly enjoyed it," Mrs Wills said.

Rangi Wills had a noted career in the Fire Service, spanning 34 years, was a Justice of the Peace, and chaired Putiki's marae committee.