Ninety years is a long time to live but when you pack so much into those 90 years it seems hardly long enough.

On Thursday, June 28 close to 100 of Ivan Hape's whanau, iwi and friends packed the Fountain Theatre to celebrate his 90th birthday.

It was a very well-kept secret from Ivan who was overwhelmed when he entered the theatre to the welcome of "Surprise" and the formal birthday greeting by MC and chairman of Ngati Kahungunu o Tamaki Nui A Rua, Hayden Hape.

Grandson Hayden, chairman of Ngati Kahungunu o Tamaki Nui A Rua and compere for the night, welcomes Ivan to
Grandson Hayden, chairman of Ngati Kahungunu o Tamaki Nui A Rua and compere for the night, welcomes Ivan to "This is Your Life".

A meal catered by Kahungunu ladies then followed before Ivan was invited on to the stage to share a couch with sister Marion and to be presented by a pictorial memory trip over 90 years entitled "Ivan Hape This Is Your Life" starting with him as a toddler near the Kaitoke woolshed.

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It traced his growing up. A passionate rugby player until an operation forced him to take up something less physical — golf — with a mix of other interests like horse racing, snooker boating and diving. Shearing was Ivan's life, travelling throughout the Tararua and beyond with shearing gangs. Remarkably, Ivan was able to name most members of nearly a dozen pictures of gangs including Lui Paewai before he became an All Black.

With son Tony, Ivan was able to relate lots of early memories of shearing and farming.
With son Tony, Ivan was able to relate lots of early memories of shearing and farming.

Ivan was at pains to emphasise the part his dad played both as a teacher of shearing and a role model. The latter was a world-class shearer with world records to his name and Ivan idolised him.

Son Tony joined Ivan for the next segment of the show and covered farming and family life, spent for a while working out at Burnview before Ivan married Theo whom he described as "my soul mate, partner in crime, tractor driver, head shepherd, nurse and doctor".

Ivan was able to name most of the people in many pictures of early shearing gangs like this at Akitio.
Ivan was able to name most of the people in many pictures of early shearing gangs like this at Akitio.

Both Tony and Diane — his children — spoke of growing up with Ivan, followed by the grandchildren who spoke eloquently about their fond memories of Christmasses and other holidays, one saying Ivan had "a compassionate heart rarely seen elsewhere".

Ivan's huge contribution to the wellbeing of iwi then followed, speakers from different groups thanking Ivan for his roles as chairman of the Ngati Kahungunu Ki wairarapa Tamaki Nui a Rua Settlement Trust, his position on the Makirikiri Marae Committee which saw the marae move from Tahoraiti to Makirikiri, his organisation of the first NZ Maori Golf Tournament, his management in the tidying up of the Kaitoke Tahoraiti Urupa and most importantly his support of the Treaty claim. In conclusion Ivan cut a birthday cake and thanked everyone for "a wonderful, wonderful party". He said he thanked all his whanau particularly wife Theo, children and grandchildren who have become "his mates".

A unique picture featuring Ivan, his grandson Hayden and his wife Theo, taken after the signing in principle of the Ngati Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui A Rua Treaty Settlement.
A unique picture featuring Ivan, his grandson Hayden and his wife Theo, taken after the signing in principle of the Ngati Kahungunu Ki Wairarapa Tamaki Nui A Rua Treaty Settlement.