Former blade shearing World Championships placegetter Bill Michelle has died in the South Island after losing a battle with cancer.

From Timaru, Michelle represented New Zealand at three consecutive World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships abroad, despite his fear of flying.

He was 5th in the individual final in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2003, 6th in Toowoomba, Australia, in 2005 and with fellow South Canterbury blade shearer Peter Race, of Fairlie, was third in the teams event in Norway in 2008.

He was still competing up till last season, when he shore in the New Zealand Spring Shears blades final at Waimate and the national lamb shearing blades final at Fairlie.

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Michelle hadn't won since he collected the big treble of the New Zealand Merino Championships, the Spring Shears and the Canterbury Show's New Zealand Corriedale Championships in just over a month in October-November 2011.

Heading to the woolsheds at the age of 15 or 16, he was taught the blade shearing craft by uncle Jimmy Deer, and shore for more than 40 years, with the blades and only the rarest of attempts with the machines, in between stints at the freezing works.

He shore for noted bladie Donny Hammond, and then Tom Rarere, who took over the run.

Career highlights were not only his major titles and the World Championships ventures, but also when he was acclaimed a Master Blade Shear, emulating the achievement of his uncle.

Peter Race said Michelle was a great travelling companion and "always the entertainer", and known on the board for his fierce approach in the finals.

"When Bill made the final, you always knew the pace was on," he said.

Survived by wife Debbie, Bill Michelle learnt late last year he was suffering from cancer, and he died at home on Friday night.

His funeral will be held at Aoraki Funeral Services in Timaru at 2pm on Wednesday, the day after his 61st birthday.