Adored Rotorua teacher Shaun Douglas lived a life surrounded by people who just loved being in his company.
Now all those who admired him, laughed with him and loved being with him are in mourning after the 50-year-old died suddenly yesterday.It was to be his first day in the position as acting principal, having been at the school for five years working up to the role as kaupapa Māori associate principal.
His body was this morningtaken to his home in Rotorua where he will lie until tomorrow morning when he would be taken to Te Papaiouru Marae at Ohinemutu at 10am.
His funeral service will take place at 11am on Thursday before his burial at Kauae cemetery.
Owhata School principal Bob Stiles said Douglas was not only a wonderful colleague but was also a good friend.
He said his passion, sense of humour and caring nature for people was "simply phenomenal".
"He was just one of the most inclusive people I have ever met. He looked after everyone's feelings, whether they were kids or older people and he had the most wonderful sense of humour."
An avid Star Wars fan and kapa haka performer, his teachings in te reo Māori and tikanga would leave a massive gap at the school and the wider education sector, Stiles said.
Douglas taught at many schools, including Rotorua Primary, Rotorua Lakes High School, Mokoia Intermediate and Ngongotahā Primary School.
However, it was Owhata School where he had a long affinity - marrying his wife Diane Tibble in the school's hall 19 years ago and celebrating his surprise 50th birthday there in September last year.
Stiles said all pupils, including his class, were told the devastating news yesterday afternoon and they were coping with the supportive school community.
"We had karakia again this morningand people are looking after each other, smiling, talking and trying to remember all the funny things he did. It probably really hasn't hit us all properly yet."
He said they sent their love to Douglas' two adult children, Te Owai and Brett, and two moko. There was a third moko on the way.
"It's not just the school who will miss him, the whole of the Eastside community will miss him incredibly."
Good friend Anaha Hiini told the Rotorua Daily Post Douglas had so many friends.
"He was such a good mate. One of the best."
Hiini said he had a way of showing respect but also mocking life.
"And boy, when he was in a room we would laugh the house down. We had so many good times, one of the last being his surprise 50th birthday. I will miss his humour, his mischievous ways, his aroha, most of all his infectious laugh that could brighten the day no matter the mood.
"Hoea tō waka, e hoa, i te moana kōratarata ki Mahora-nui-ātea e uru ai koe mā te tatau o Pararā-ki-te-uru oti atu ai ki reira."
Life-long friend and fellow teacher Dan Vaka said Douglas' loss would have a profound impact on many. He said he had a charismatic character who could make anyone laugh and feel at ease at the same time.
"Ka taka te rau o te huia, he tohu o te mate nā!" E pari ana ngā tai o Auhī, o Tarawē i kawea mai ai e ngā hou kōtengitengi o Tahumawakenui ki runga ki a Te Arawa i te hinganga mai o tō tātou kura matahiapō! Kai taku Manu taupua o te rae,
kua tūngutungutuhia koe ki te tirohanga kanohi, kua karangatā tō reo newanewa, kua takanewhanewha ōu whatu tē pūrata anō, rāwakiwaki ana āu haumāuiuitanga i tō hohore i a mātou, tauhōkai atu ki a Nunumi mā, ki a Roroa mā, ki te tīkokekoke o te rangi e tīramarama mai ai koe! Haro, hoka, omaki atu rā! Korekore rawa koe e wareware i a mātou!.....I love you my brother."
Ene Mikaere, who has children at Owhata Primary School, said "Mātua Shaun" showed love to everyone he knew.
Her daughter Valencia, who missed several weeks of school while suffering a rare life-threatening medical condition, was especially devastated.
"He really took care of her when she went back to school, he was her teacher for her last year of primary and he made sure she loved every moment of it. He will be so dearly missed."
Friend Krissie Knap said "Mātua Shaun" was a man who loved his wife dearly, his children and his mokopuna.
"Every time I saw him I was always greeted with a big smile followed by a kiss hello and a big cuddle, in true Shaun style."
She said he was fun to hang out with when you had the opportunity.
"That I'll really miss. He was an inspiration to our tamariki. Rest in love Shaun."
Ōwhata Primary School will close on Thursday for Douglas' funeral. Tomorrow Douglas' body will leave his home and be driven past the school on Brent Rd where pupils and staff will do a guard of honour before his body is taken to Ohinemutu.