29 Sep 2009

Entertainer Sir Howard Morrison laid to rest

10:52 pm on 29 September 2009

Sir Howard Morrison has been laid to rest at Kauae cemetery near Rotorua.

Sir Howard, one of New Zealand's best-loved entertainers, died in his sleep at his home in the Rotorua suburb of Ohinemutu last Thursday. He was 74.

He will also be remembered as a cultural ambassador and campaigner for Maori.

Thousands of people have turned out to celebrate his life during a five-day tangi culminating in his funeral and burial on Tuesday afternoon. The service combined Sir Howard's Maori and Pakeha heritage and was filled with music and song.

Sir Howard's casket was accompanied to the cemetery at Ngongotaha by close family and guided by about 15 warriors from the iwi Te Arawa.

He was buried among the family of his wife Lady Morrison, close to his own whanau's resting grounds.

Earlier, a funeral service was held at Te Papaiouru Marae in Rotorua, where parish minister the Reverend Tom Poata gave the sermon, describing Sir Howard as something of a hero who broke down boundaries between Maori and Pakeha.

Sir Howard's oldest daughter Donna Mariana Grant delivered the eulogy, saying she was proud to call him Dad, and recalled a man full of personality, charisma and the face of biculturalism.

"He saw every day as a day of opportunity to do something good, to be recognised for it, but also in his heart of hearts he was a man of great giving."

Representing the Government, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said Sir Howard was a great New Zealander and will be remembered for turning the song Whakaaria mai, also known as How Great Thou Art, into a national icon.

Mr English said Sir Howard's rendition of the song at the 1981 Royal Variety Concert in the presence of the Queen created an extraordinary event.

"He took an ordinary hymn and weaved it into the cultural and spiritual life of our nation."

Mr English was speaking on behalf of Prime Minister John Key, who is overseas.

Others to attend the funeral included Sir Howard's great friend, opera singer Dame Malvina Major, who performed at the service.

Following the burial, mourners returned to the marae where a celebration of Sir Howard Morrison's life continued on Tuesday night.