A blustery Wairarapa morning greeted the more than 60 friends and family of Ross Wilson gathered on March 2 for the unveiling of his memorial plaque and tekoteko.
As light rain fell over the Te Wakaiti Community Centre and Marae in Featherston the manuhiri were welcomed onto the marae to the sound of the putatara by H%u0113nare Walmsley and karanga by Morna Taute and Mandy Scanlan.
Jack Doherty, an original member of Te Wakaiti, opened the ceremony while Father Philip Cody SM led the prayer.
Ross’s sister, Felicity, unveiled a memorial plaque and the unique tekoteko (Māori epitaph). The tekoteko, representing Ross’s strength and courage, stood under an olive tree planted some 25 years ago by Te Wakaiti’s founders. Ross’s wife, Monica Wilson, Patsy Wooles and John O’Reilly are longstanding members of the marae.
Ross’s daughter, Mereaira, read the inscription on the plaque, ‘Ehara taku toa, I te toa takitahi, he toa takitini’ – It is not the strength of one, but the strength of many. This certainly held true as Ross’s son, Tane, said in his speech about the carving of this magnificent tekoteko.
‘It brought our wh%u0101nau even closer together,’ he said. ‘We carved it in memory of our father’ whereupon the brothers and grandson Jordan led a vigorous and inspiring haka for their rangatira; the w%u0101hine flanked the haka with karanga and waiata.
The family haka was specially composed by their uncle, Fred Wilson, and was a fitting reminder of Ross’s gentle assurance. Ross was also a dedicated member of the M%u0101ori Catholic community not only in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) but throughout the nation.
A brother of Ross came from Dunedin to pay homage to his brother; Rangi Wilson placed a greenstone pendant around the neck of the tekoteko to symbolise the great aroha of the wh%u0101nau. Another brother, Willie, and two sisters, Liz and Felicity from Wairoa, also attended the unveiling.
Ross had initiated the carving of the tekoteko well before his peaceful death on August 2, 2005. His sons Tane, Karaitiana, Joseph, and Tamati took up the challenge to make it ready for this special occasion.
Sophie and Anna Wooles and Francis Leota sang a heartfelt tribute to their uncle in the song , ‘The Rose’.
No reira, e te taonga, moe r%u0101 I raro I te parirau o te Atua I runga rawa.
P%u0113r%u0101 te tangi o te k%u014Dkako e k%u014D I ata; e tangi, e tangi, e tangi.
I %u0113nei wa, m%u0101 te Atua, e manaaki, e tiaki ki a koe, e Monica me t%u014Du Wh%u0101nau katoa.
Pictures: above left: Morna Taute with the tekoteko
above right: Ross’s sons performing the specially composed haka.