Donovan Wearing, the chief executive of Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre, was farewelled by hundreds at a memorial service yesterday.
Family, friends, colleagues and students gathered at the Masterton Town Hall to commemorate the life of a man many described as a visionary.
Dr Wearing died last Wednesday at the age of 52.
He is survived by his wife, their daughters and two grandchildren.
Addressing what she called "the elephant in the room", his wife Catherine Sands Wearing said he had suffered a "brain attack" that had caused him to lose control of his mind and body, and led to his tragic sudden death.
Old friend Paul Robinson, who studied with Dr Wearing at Canterbury University, said he would be remembered for his sense of humour.
"He loved to have fun and did not care what people said when he played up and enjoyed life."
Mr Wearing had completed a Master of Arts in history at Canterbury University before going on to complete a Master of Business Administration and eventually a doctorate at Southern Cross University.
He was previously employed at the Open Polytechnic in Wellington, where he was general manager of a range of subjects, including e-learning and emerging businesses.
Prior to the Open Polytechnic, he held a senior management role at the Ministry of Health.
Despite having little agricultural knowledge when he took up his role at Taratahi in 2008, he had quickly come to love his job, Mr Robinson said.
"I know he was immensely proud of his role and everything he achieved there," he said.
Daughter Meg Wearing recalled his "silliness" designed to entertain his daughters. She said his three passions were his work, his wife and Kathmandu clothing.
"Dad was many things to many people ... but for us, he was just our Dad and he loved us.
"He did not give up on anything or anyone that he had loved ... to say that we will miss him does not begin to cover the extent of the chasm we face."
A former Taratahi student said Dr Wearing had made a lasting impression on her life.
"You could always tell when he spoke to us that he had great passion for our success ... he would talk to us at our level and was always proud of what we achieved. He always made us feel like individuals, not a number."
The service was followed by a private family cremation.