James Jackson of Whanganui was a sports fan, model railway enthusiast and advocate for people with disabilities.

But most people knew him as "harmonica man" playing solos for shoppers in Victoria Ave on fine days.

James died peacefully on July 20 and was farewelled at the Forrest Lawn Chapel in Whanganui on Tuesday.

"He loved music," says his niece, Kimber Jackson.


"His cousin Doug in Rarotonga made a video recording of himself playing the harmonica for James to be played at the funeral."

James was more of a brother than an uncle to Kimber, she says, because he was just seven years her senior.

"He was disabled from birth but I remember him getting around quite well on crutches when we were young.

"We used to play backyard rugby and he would 'kick' the ball with his crutches."

James was one of two boys adopted by the late James and the late Ada Jackson of Whanganui and Kimber's late father Danny was an older brother to James.

"Dad was Māori and James was Rarotongan but they knew and loved each other as brothers.

"My grandparents were lovely people who gave their boys a good life."

James was in contact with his birth family, says Kimber, and went to visit them in Rarotonga about 20 years ago.


"He would have liked to stay there longer but they did not have facilities for his health needs there."

Kimber moved to Wellington with her family as a teenager but says her mother, known to James as 'Aunty' Pat, has moved back to Whanganui and would often invite him over for roast dinners.

"He always enjoyed music and loved his record player and vinyl collection as a young man.

"He also had a really impressive model railway with a train that whistled and blew smoke as it went around the track."

In recent years, James loved watching sport on his big screen TV and his niece says he was a big Super Rugby fan.

"Before he became more seriously disabled himself, he was a campaigner for people with disabilities.

"I remember him writing letters to the council about potholes and uneven footpaths."

James Jackson is survived by Kimber, her brother Mark and their families as well as his cousins Doug, Nicky and extended family in Rarotonga.