Dion Hodder's life may have been short but the crowd of more than 500 who turned out to farewell him on Saturday proved he touched many lives.
The 16-year-old was at a St John Youth camp on Motutapu Island, in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, a week ago on Saturday when he fell ill with meningococcal disease. He was airlifted to Auckland Hospital for urgent treatment but died that evening.
Speaker after speaker at Kerikeri's Turner Centre — including family members, friends, St John leaders, fellow St John Cadets and his class teacher — recalled the irrepressibly positive teen with a promising future as an ambulance officer and a chef.
Ros Smith, a former Kerikeri St John station manager, spoke of Dion's lightning-sharp wit, his prolific and random dispensing of hugs, his empathy and compassion for others.
He could also be ''a little smart-arse'' but his humour was always on the mark.
''It may have been a short life, but look at the lives it has touched,'' she said.
Dion's mother, Todd Horton, said losing her ''right-hand man'' had left a huge hole in her heart. She spoke of his first day at school, the hard times when his father died, the way he threw himself into everything St John, and how he looked forward to going to culinary college.
''Your smile and warmth were infectious to everyone you met. And everyone loved Dion's cuddles,'' she said.
Emma Bann described her cousin as a ''remarkable kid, full of love and happiness that he shared with everybody and everything''.
''During some of the tough times for our family, he was one of the biggest supports and brightest lights,'' she said.
His class teacher at Kerikeri High, Jane Jarman, said the ''bright, bubbly, happy young man'' made an impression on everyone he met. He genuinely cared for his friends and teachers, often putting their interests before his own, and was ''a bit of a old soul'' in his respect and manners.
''He was funny, caring, a little bit eccentric, gentle, kind, and had a complete lack of self-consciousness that made him so unusual for a teenage boy.''
Dion's girlfriend, Paige, was too upset to read her speech so her father Clint Robinson read it for her. She promised to continue his legacy and take Stitch — a stuffed toy from a Disney movie which had become something of a mascot — on many more St John adventures.
As well as tears from friends and powerful haka from schoolmates and members of the St John Youth haka party, there was also laughter and amusing anecdotes. They included a story from Paige's father, a non-hugger, about his surprise when he first met his daughter's boyfriend: ''I thought I'd been attacked by a spider monkey!''
St John Northern region patron Richard Blundell said the boy with the ''impish, cheeky smile'' had been winning awards since joining the St John Penguins at the age of 6. He had been named Cadet of the Year and had received St John Youth's highest award just a few months ago.
Dion, known to his friends as D, was farewelled at the Turner Centre because it was the only venue in Kerikeri big enough. Four hundred seats were set out but more than 100 people stood through the celebration of his life.
A small casket with his ashes was flanked by his St John uniform and medals, a scout scarf, his Year 12 photography board and a pair of Stitches.