Ernie lived life to the full
When a good man dies even hard men cry.
These are not tears of sorrow, of regret, but fluid derived from the memory of life lived to bursting – that of Ernie “Abo” Waina.
His was a life hard-played, enjoyed to the full, win or lose. Above all, it was a simple life, for Ernie Waina was ordinary, of the land, Maori, if we were to speak of him in te reo.
Ernie Waina, of Ngai Tahu whakapapa, the youngest son of the late Emma and Jack Waina, was born at the McHardy Home on Mataruahau, Napier on May 26, 1946.
He was educated at Wairoa but his hearty approach to life ensured that he soon came to the attention of the authorities and in 1961 was provided with secondary training at Her Majesty’s Institution at Invercargill.
After a stint at Whakatu freezing works, Ernie moved to Westport in the South Island and, confronting his addictions, he began what became the work of his life. Ernie’s highly effective voluntary work with street youth, and in helping those getting a rough deal, again brought him to the attention of the Government. This time however it was all good and Ernie was selected as a field worker for the Group Employment Liaison Service, established in the Department of Labour in 1981, as a recommendation of the Comber Committee on Gangs.
In Westport, Ernie ran an open home. He held great mana on the coast in those times of high unemployment and a tough economy. When he was on the wagon, Ernie was a superb field worker and was recognised as a community developer par excellence. The prevailing opinion was that you were safe in his hands.
In time, Ernie returned to his old stomping grounds in Hawke’s Bay, working in seasonal industries.
In October, 2005 a mate helped him get into a job at Progressive Meats. He enjoyed the job immensely and it was in the effort of an honest day’s work that his staunch heart failed and he collapsed.
Ernie, stubborn to the last and defeating the longest predictions of Hastings’ doctors and kind nurses, held onto life until his kids and friends could visit him one last time, many times over, just to make the point.
So, early on the January 16, Ernie Waina died peacefully surrounded by the love of his children and the prayers of his friends and family.
When we consider the life of Ernie Waina we recognise that along with his generous humanity, which like all human conditions had faults, Ernie Waina also possessed great strength.
When his stubborn strength was mixed with his huge capacity to love, the person, the man we know as Ernie Waina, burned as a bright red torch for those who had troubles.
Bright red is not an accidental feature of the colour palate [palette]. Ernie’s coffin was lined with red silk, no doubt a personal specification for Ernie was among those young local men of Hawke’s Bay who in the early 1960s became known as the Mongrel Mob.
For whatever reason, early in his life Ernie took a socially troublesome path. He paid his price for his misdemeanours but then more than equalised by his pro-social efforts.
Ernie Waina is survived by his children Jolene, Duane, Jasmine, Samuel and Cassidy and his grandchildren Tyrin and Rueben.
Ernie lay in state at Petane Marae and after the final service of the tangihana he was buried in the urupa Ararat on the foreshore at Petane on January 18.
Photo caption – MISSED BY MANY: Ernie Waina