Community grateful for giving spirit
Stuart Tuari John
James (Hemi) Panapa
Hastings man Stuart “Hemi” Panapa died last Sunday, without receiving the Queen’s Service Medal he was awarded in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said his whanau will receive the QSM on his behalf at a ceremony next month. It was awarded for his services to Maori and to education.
“This will be a fitting tribute to his life’s work,” she said. “The whole of Ikaroa Rawhiti loves this man.”
But it’s far from being the only acclamation in his remarkably versatile 81 years, a particularly proud moment having come three years ago at the inaugural Matariki Living Taonga Awards when he received the Ringahora Award for selfless service.
A painter by trade, he hit the road as an entertainer in his 20s with concert groups which included the likes of the then emerging Howard Morrison and Abe Phillips, who became a Hawke’s Bay music legend despite his premature death in a car crash in 1971.
Mr Panapa (Rangitane and Ngati Kahungunu) would also work as a wharfie, freezing worker, territorial force soldier, and apple-packing contractor.
Among those at the Whakatu freezing works when the huge Hastings plant was closed in 1986, he would later study te reo Maori at the EIT, where he obtained a B.Ed (Maori Studies), and go on to teach at four primary schools and four Napier secondary schools.
He was chairman of St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College Parent Teacher Association from 1979 to 1982 and served on boards of trustees for several schools for 28 years.
From Ruahapia, he had had a long association with the Waipatu Maori Catholic Club, reputed not to have missed an annual meeting since he joined 67 years ago, at the age of 14. He was chairman and the treasurer up to his death, Mrs Fox said.
Mr Panapa was representative for Ruahapia Marae on the Te Taiwhenua O Heretaunga board and a trustee on the marae’s committee since 1976.
He was also vice-chairman of the Light House Trust from 2003 to 2005 and chairman of the Community Organisation Grants Scheme from 1995 to 2004.
Mrs Fox said: “He has spent a life supporting our rangatahi, passing on his love for te reo rangatira in a variety of roles around schools in Hastings and Napier.
“Success mattered to Matua Stuart. He saw the magic of matauranga – education and schooling – as a foundation for improving the lives of Maori.
“One of the things this koroua did, which has touched so many lives, was to create a community garden in Ruahapia and deliver vegetables to local families,” Mrs Fox said.
“This was the spirit of generosity, the practice of giving that characterised the man. Our sympathies and aroha are shared with all the whanau, hapu and iwi who mourn the passing of such a key figure in their community.”
She said that when it became clear he may not have time to receive his QSM moves were made to try to have the honour presented to him prior to his passing.
“Sadly, this was not to be the case.”
Mr Panapa spent much of his life not knowing his age. In 2012 he said he thought he was 80. He had four children and about 20 grandchildren.
He rested this week on marae at Waipatu and then Ruahapia, where his final service was held on Thursday.
Photo caption – CELEBRATED: Stuart “Hemi” Panapa at the inaugural Matariki Living Taonga Awards in Hastings in 2012, after receiving the Ringahora Award for selfless service. PHOTO/FILE