He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata – it is people, it is people, it is people.
That is what Kevin (Kev) O'Brien lived for – being of service to the people of his beloved Kawerau community.
O'Brien died on September 1 at his Kawerau home and a service was held at the town's Firmin Lodge.
Edwina O'Brien, his wife of 40-odd years, said before they had returned home with her husband's body, the community had set up a marquee at the home and had everything under control.
"So many people, including people from his Ngāti Wai iwi, came and paid their respects," Edwina said. "It has been very humbling."
Born in Taumarunui, the eighth of 12 children, O'Brien moved to Kawerau in 1959 to work at the timber mill. He had two daughters with his first wife and, after meeting and marrying Edwina, went on to have another four children.
O'Brien took redundancy from the timber mill after 24 years' employment and worked as part of the Whākatane District Council PEP scheme that was initiated by the Government of the time to have people on the unemployment benefit working for the money.
"Kev used to take them out on the farm to get rid of weeds or things like that," Edwina said.
"He had some pretty hard people in some of his crews, saw some angry fights – but these people often became his best friends. That's the type of guy he was."
O'Brien also had a firewood business and he and his wife owned a Kawerau dairy for five years but at aged 60, he was forced to retire due to a back injury.
"He became the best house husband ever. I was privileged to be a stay-home mum but when Kev retired I was able to return to work."
In a voluntary capacity O'Brien was heavily involved in Keep Kawerau Beautiful, often mowing others' lawns and weeding others' gardens - to the detriment of their own, Edwina joked.
So much so that the O'Briens were the recipients of a garden makeover through the television programme Mucking In and had their section transformed.
"Kev always wanted to be in the background, he absolutely hated the spotlight. So when the Mucking In crew turned up he was mortified."
O'Brien coached netball and swimming and his biggest passion – track and field. He was a board of trustees representative, served two terms on Kawerau District Council, was a volunteer masseuse for injured sportspeople and for the elderly, cut tracks around the river for events and tackled graffiti in the town.
"Kev also took on a mountain fire watch role for the summer months. The kids and I would park at the bottom of the mountain and start the hike to the top. Sometimes Kev would meet us halfway or other times we'd make it to the top."
She said O'Brien's birthday was during the mountain watch times.
"One year we put a cake into a backpack and met Kev halfway up the mountain. We took the cake out and put it on the bonnet, lit the candle and sung happy birthday while looking out over Kawerau.
"That is one of the special times I will always remember."
She described her husband as a working man, straight-up with a great sense of humour and who was passionate about Kawerau.
"He had these sayings and one of them, when asked how he was, went along the lines of; I'm great, can do the 100 yards in 10.5 seconds. As his health began to decline the answer was still the same although the time stretched out to 10.5 minutes."
O'Brien, 82, is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.