A decorated soldier in two Word Wars who made a big impression during his time in Horowhenua more than 100 years ago will be the first inductee into a new Walk of Fame proposed for Levin.
Heritage Horowhenua Trust, which was last month given the green light for the initiative, has given Sir Bernard Freyberg, awarded a Victoria Cross, the honour of having his name on the first plaque laid.
There will be an invitation sent to Lord Freyberg's grandson, Lord Freyberg III, and his family to attend an induction ceremony planned for February 2021. He is a member of the House of Lords in England.
Trustee Kerry Geertson said a trust committee had been working hard and were happy to be given official approval for the project, at a Horowhenua District Council meeting earlier this month.
He said while there was a long list of potential inductees, and rules and guidelines that had been adopted, the release of Freyberg as its first inductee was fitting.
Geertson was joined on the Trust committee by Tom Hayes, Nina Hori Te Pa, Linda Fletcher, Darryl Small and Bruce Little.
There were 20 people on the list to be celebrated and biographies for each would appear on a new website. Each new plaque would have a QR code linking to its biography.
The Trust had worked through the finer points of the proposal, with each 3mm-thick plaque to be fixed to the pavement outside shops, made of stainless steel to be durable and easily cleaned.
Freyberg was busy during his time in Levin and played representative rugby, was captain of a local swimming club, gave swimming and lifesaving lessons, played golf and even roller-skated - winning a prize for "best gentleman skater", and played bridge.
He played three games of rugby for Horowhenua while living in Levin in his early 20s, playing for Levin Wanderers where he was the goal-kicker, before joining a Kimberley club.
Horowhenua Chronicle reported that "Freyberg, I must mention without any skite or boast. Trains very hard at all times and is always at his post."
Born at Richmond, London, in 1889, he was the youngest son of James and Julia and was nicknamed "Tiny". He would grow to be more than 1.82m tall.
The family moved to Wellington in 1891. Although not academically inclined, he was New Zealand sprint champion in 1906 and 1910. He also played competitive water polo and was a keen yachtsman.
Freyberg trained as a dentist and practised in Levin before joining the army and serving as a lieutenant in a senior cadet company.
He would go on serve in both World Wars, survive horrific injuries and be awarded medals for bravery.
Winston Churchill, in 1920, wrote of Freyberg: "I asked him to show me his wounds. He stripped himself, and I counted 27 separate scars and gashes."
Many biographers had described him as a big and powerful man, superbly fit and with great determination and astuteness, with the potential to be an All Black but for the outbreak of war.
Geertson said they planned to release new inductees each year and planned that celebrations would extend to a Heritage week and a parade through town.
There were also plans for a Heritage trial marking notable sites and houses in Horowhenua. There were 300 sites already earmarked for the trail.
It would be unique to Horowhenua, he said, and provided the region with an opportunity to celebrate its heritage.
Meanwhile, the criteria for potential inductees is:
- Any pioneer or early settler, Māori identity or local identity, prominent business man or woman, local celebrity or other identifiable distinction that would be recognised by the community as having heritage value.
- Any person who had international recognition or reputation in any activity that reflects well on Horowhenua and New Zealand.
- Those people who have represented New Zealand in any sporting activity and those people who have officiated in any sporting test match between two countries.