Hundreds to mourn couple killed in crash
Hundreds of mourners were expected to pass through Dannevirke’s Makirikiri marae today in respect for couple Ahuwhenua (Boy) and Hinewai Witika, who died in a car crash in Manawatu on Saturday.
The couple, aged 78 and 81 respectively, were prominent in the running of Te Kohanga o Taniwaka, and many past and present pupils were at their Main Road North home when the bodies were returned to Dannevirke last night.
Known for her knowledge of te reo, Mrs Witika was recruited from the woolsheds to help run the newly opened kohanga in the mid 1980s, and was instrumental in its movement from the shared facilities of the Makirikiri Play Centre into town and eventually purchase and shift to its current site in Tennyson Street, Dannevirke.
She became kaiako and her lengthy service was recognised with the presentation of a carved taonga at the kohanga’s 20th birthday celebrations in 2004.
Longtime friend and supporter Ataneta Paewai said the couple did everything together, and Mr Witika, a former shearer and abattoir worker, was closely involved with the kohanga also, among a group maintaining the facilities.
Mr and Mrs Witika were on their way to a meeting in Foxton when their car, driven by Mr Witika, left a bend and hit a bank about 2km west of Shannon, about 1.30pm on Saturday.
Their caskets were expected to leave Makirikiri tomorrow for Motuiti Marae, Foxton, where their final service will take place on Wednesday.
The couple are among seven people who have died on the roads in the holiday period, which began at 4pm on Christmas Eve and finishes at 6am on January 3.
Last year nine people died in that period.
Photo caption – TE REO ENTHUSIASIST: Hinewai Witika, who died with husband Ahuwhenua Witika in a crash on Saturday, pictured when her long service to Dannevirke’s Taniwaka kohanga reo was recognised at 20th birthday celebrations in 2004.