"Ka hohotu tonu nei te manawa."

"The hearts of paharakeke will continue to pulsate."

Tears were shed and candles were lit as residents remembered a man who was not only known by many, but loved by those who came across him.

About 200 people gathered last night in Flaxmere for a blessing ceremony for Kelly Donner, who died outside the Flaxmere Tavern on Sunday night after an attack.

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Most people in the crowd were dressed in black and were not deterred by the rain as night fell.

Jeremy McLeod and Thompson Hokianga performing the blessing ceremony where Kelly Alex Donner was found dead on Sunday. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Jeremy McLeod and Thompson Hokianga performing the blessing ceremony where Kelly Alex Donner was found dead on Sunday. Photo / Duncan Brown.

Jeremy McLeod, Thompson Hokianga and Flaxmere resident and Hastings district councillor Henare O'Keefe led the ceremony.

Police yesterday afternoon named the dead man as Kelly Alex Donner, 40, from Opotiki.

It is believed he worked at Crasborn Group on Omahu Rd, Hastings, and also volunteered at New World helping to return trolleys.

Jocelyn Peachey remembers a 17-year-old Kelly in his signature baggy blue jeans.

They met in the 80s at the Gisborne Health Camp and rekindled their relationship several years later.

"We were both young, I think it was about three, maybe four months, but our history goes back to our younger days."

Peachey found out about Donner's death through social media yesterday, having lost all contact with him.

"It just hurts. We never really got a chance to have a relationship because of our ages and our situations at that time."

Nolan Taitapanui, outside New World Flaxmere, was a friend of Kelly Donner. Photo / Duncan Brown.
Nolan Taitapanui, outside New World Flaxmere, was a friend of Kelly Donner. Photo / Duncan Brown.

Local resident Nolan Taitapanui said Donner was like a brother to him.

"He was a good mate of mine and I am very pissed off what has happened to him."

Another woman, who did not wish to be named, said although she didn't know Donner personally, she had heard that he was a very gentle and humble man.

"He would never pass by without saying 'hello'."

A Flaxmere man, who knew Donner well, remembered him fondly.

"He was still like a friend to me. He was just an ordinary person. We would chat on a daily basis in passing and ask how each other's day was going."

On Sunday night, as the man was leaving his job for the evening, a woman ran to him screaming, and asked him to follow her to where his friend lay.

"I knew who he was straight away. It is so raw and it is only early days.

"It sort of freaked me out, I have never been in a situation in my security career to witness an event like this.

"I do security so I am trying to help keep our community safe. This is my community, I have kids that live here and I am trying to keep this place safe for our future."

Manager of Flaxmere's St Vincent de Paul, George David, remembers assisting Kelly Donner with food parcels. Photo / Warren Buckland.
Manager of Flaxmere's St Vincent de Paul, George David, remembers assisting Kelly Donner with food parcels. Photo / Warren Buckland.

St Vincent De Paul second-hand shop manager George David said the violent death was too close to home.

"I just don't understand why anyone would have hurt him. It just doesn't make sense."

David would often arrange food parcels for Donner when he needed them - the first time being in 2014 when his two daughters were going to stay with him during the school holidays.

"I was shocked to hear what happened to him. I just spoke with him last week. He was walking through with somebody and still had the time to say hello as he walked past."

He remembers him being a "little bit of a nomad, but a lovely, friendly guy".

Despite having had a rental property in the community in 2012 and 2013, it is believed Donner slept rough, sometimes at the nearby park - although it is not known when this started happening.

A local woman who did not wish to be named had fond memories of Donner and was "shocked" to hear of his tragic death.

"I never knew his name. I only knew him for the past two months and he was a primo guy."

Whenever she would see him, she would shout out "bro" and he would affectionately reply with "sis".

"He was a good guy to talk to. It is awful."

A local resident said it was certainly a shock.

"No one deserves to go like that."

The resident remembered seeing Donner around New World and said he seemed like a nice guy.

A community meeting will be held at the Flaxmere Community Centre at 7pm today and O'Keefe said all are welcome.

Ka Mate, Ka Mate, Ka ora, Ka ora.

"To live, to live, to die, to die."