Rotorua is mourning the loss of a true officer and gentleman.
Aubrey Huia Balzer died suddenly while mowing lawns at his beach house in Maketu on Sunday. He was 92.
Mr Balzer served with B Company Maori Battalion in World War II and, with his brothers Clarence and Oswald, were known as the B Company "penny divers" from Whakarewarewa.
He spent 24 years in the army ending with the rank of Colonel and as commanding officer of the 6th Hauraki Regiment.
For a long time he was the highest ranking Maori serving in the New Zealand Army. According to the regiment's official history, he was a great role model for young Maori entering the army.
His daughter Colleen described her father as independent right to the end.
"I felt relief he died quickly and didn't have to go to hospital or an old persons' home, he would have hated that."
She said her father was a survivor.
"He was highly intelligent and very practical. When he wanted to join the water ski club, he built a boat and when he wanted a beach house, he built a beach house."
She said the family never went without as her father was a hunter, gatherer and keen gardener.
"He was also very comical and really cheeky ... his coffin will not have flowers, it will have a basket of vegetables on it. It's a simple pine box with ropes for handles, like a fisherman," she said.
Rotorua RSA manager Rolly Rolston said the world had lost a "true gentleman".
As a reporter, I had the honour of interviewing Aubrey on many occasions - always immaculately dressed, his shoes polished, his remaining hair combed neatly and his moustache carefully trimmed.
He knew the true meaning of loss during war, having buried his little brother Oswald in Italy during the winter of 1943.
He also understood the true meaning of honour, once telling me he refused to obey a direct order from a superior officer to shoot Italian prisoners of war.
A service for Mr Balzer will be held at the Living Well Church on Biak St on Friday from 1pm.