A man committed to his community and church has been remembered by his whanau as humble, kind and loving.
George Te Kuru o Te Marama Bennett was farewelled recently at Taheke Marae where hundreds paid tribute to the archdeacon. He was born in Hastings on May 26, 1930, the second youngest of 19 children to Frederick Augustus Bennett (Ngati Whakaue) and Arihia Rangioue Hemana (Ngati Pikiao).
Mr Bennett went to Clive Primary School and Napier High School where he enrolled in an agriculture course intending to be a poultry farmer. He worked for a short time on a poultry farm before selling pork bones and watercress from a truck, after his move to Rotorua.
At 21 he married Arihia Kane Green of Ngati Porou at St Faith's Church. They first lived in Ohinemutu before relocating to Okere Falls.
Mr Bennett was on the Taheke Marae Committee and was active in local land corporations. One of his six children, Robyn McGarvey, said he was well known as a bus driver for the Okere Falls-to-Rotorua route. Before that he'd worked at Joe's Diner, RM Motors and, between stints driving buses, he and his wife bought a fish and chip shop on Malfroy Rd.
"He was always kind, really known in the community for kindness and not only to whanau," Mrs McGarvey said.
"He would pick up hitchhikers and offer them a bed. Mum would be expecting him home for dinner and then he'd arrive with an extra passenger, she would have no idea but they would welcome a stranger into their home."
Mr Bennett studied theology at Taapapa ki Te Manawa o Te Wheke in Holden's Bay. During his service in the ministry he became a kaikarakia in 1991, a deacon in 1995, ordained a priest in 1996 and became an archdeacon in 2000 when he was the priest in charge of the St Mark's Church - Te Ngae parish until 2003.
"He was really kind and loving . . a real softie. We remember him coming home from work, after a day on the buses, with a treat of either chocolate or sweets," daughter Faith Smith said.
"Both our parents were very humble people and never forgot their roots. For most of their married life they focussed their time and energy on Okere Falls and St Mark's but they kept close ties with Ohinemutu and St Faith's, where his father preached many years before him."