(Gary Hamilton-Irvine, Rotorua Daily Post) Mitai Rolleston was a man of many talents but his one true passion was education.
The Ngati Whakaue kaumatua died on Saturday at Rotorua Hospital after battling liver cancer.
The 77-year-old, who lived most of his life in Rotorua, has left a lasting legacy in the city, advocating on behalf of his iwi for decades while working for a number of community organisations.
His son Hemi Rolleston, one of five children, said that he will be remembered for his work among his people.
“I would describe my dad as a man of many talents,” he said.
“He worked tirelessly for his iwi at all levels and in particular he was passionate about education. But he was also a champion father and that was his first job.”
Hemi said his dad was a staunch Waikite Rugby Club supporter.
“He played for Waikite, his children played for Waikite and his grandchildren have played for them. The whole team is coming down [to Ohinemutu] tonight.”
Mr Rolleston’s body was welcomed on to the Te Papaiouru Marae at Ohinemutu yesterday afternoon, followed by a massive crowd of family and friends.
“As a son it is very humbling to see the stature of my dad and the importance he had in the community,” Hemi Rolleston said.
“He was a real people person, he had a lot of charisma and always saw the positive side in everything.”
Mr Rolleston was awarded a Rotorua District Community Award two months ago for his work within Ngati Whakaue.
For the past 10 years, Mr Rolleston has been closely involved in the set-up and administration of Ngati Whakaue Taumata, and until recently held the position of chairman for the Taumata.
In his time as chairman, Mr Rolleston helped set up the Ngati Whakaue early learning centre, Te Ao Kapurangi, in Pererika St, and then the early education centre, Te Puna Akoranga o Ngati Whakaue, in Ranolf St.
Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said Mr Rolleston would be sorely missed in the city.
“Anything to do with Whakaue had Mitai’s name on it.”
He said right up until before his death, Mr Rolleston was still advocating for his people and that was the type of man he was.
“He was in my office the other day advocating for the Rotorua Education Initiative,” Mr Winters said.
Among his earlier achievements, Mr Rolleston was also one of the first Maori graduates from Hato Petera College on the North Shore to go to university.
His funeral will be held tomorrow at 11am at Te Papaiouru Marae, followed by burial at Kauae Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, Josephine, five children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.