Leading academic and Cook Islands Papa Ron’s gravestone unveiled

Thursday February 28, 2019 Written by Published in Education
Tata Crocombe with Daniel, Liz and Marjorie. 19022610 Tata Crocombe with Daniel, Liz and Marjorie. 19022610

The late Ron Crocombe has been described as a man ‘ahead of his time’, a father of education for the people of the Cook Islands and the Pacific as a whole.


This was much talked about at the unveiling of the headstone for the late leading academic of the Pacific Professor Crocombe at the Ngati Marama graveyard in Nikao, Rarotonga.

John Herman during a short speech for the late professor said: “The amazing thing in my relationship in the time I came to know Papa Ron is he was really a person who managed the Pan Pacific, he led with a vision.”

Herman said when him and his wife decided to study at the University of the South Pacific (USP), where Papa Ron had been a professor, they never had any regrets as the late Papa Ron and his wife Marjorie assisted them with their studies.

“They really helped a lot of cook island students who went to USP they understood our situation, “and students succeeded, Papa Ron walked the extra mile for students.”
Herman said Papa Ron was a strong supporter of multiculturalism as to the core and he was important during the period of development in the pacific.

“What he did was he helped build the PAN pacific under the idea we are one people. The role is built wonderfully by USP.

“He was a man ahead of his time. He went too quickly he had so much to offer. In my 20 years of working at the USP centre, he never ran out of energy, he was there to help any student. Let’s hope there will be more people like Papa Ron.”

Tata Crocombe said his late father was dedicated to education particularly of Pacific Islanders and he was well known throughout the pacific. 

Tata said it was one night that he spoke with his late father when he revealed to Tata that when he was sleeping under a bridge in Germany backpacking, he woke up in the night and it came clear to him that his life would be dedicated to the education of the South Pacific people.

“It was amazing he never met anyone from the South Pacific before that. For him it was a calling, not a job.”

Giving a brief background of the late professor was also his son Kevin Crocombe who said that Papa Ron was on October 8, 1929 and passed away on June 19,2009.

He said Papa Ron was born in the King Country, North Island in New Zealand from a humble family.

After completing his studies, he went to Rarotonga and fell in love with the island, its culture and the people.

He worked as a clerk at the public works department and became a Resident Agent in Atiu in 1957 at the age of 27.

He said Papa Ron married Marjorie in 1959.

He said his dad loved travelling and it was throughout the 70’s decade when most of the Pacific Islands gained independence that Papa Ron was a part of.

“Dad was in the thick of the PNG independence movement. Throughout the 70’s decade Pacific nations gained independence and he was there at the ceremonies. In Fiji he set up the institute the of Pacific studies, while working for the school of social and economic development department. “During the next decade, he published 400 books on the Pacific from cooking, politics to religion to land tenure and encouraged Pacific island writers to put their own stories down on the paper and sadly the institute was closed after he retired.”

Meanwhile, the gravestone reveals themes that were important to Papa Ron such as

- the Crocombe name reflects Papa Ron’s English heritage, hence the McLeod clan tartan reflects his Scottish heritage and close connection to his mother.

-on the left side, a Totoro motif reflects his lifelong connection with the people of Atiu. Where the turtle shows his close connection with nature and his never-ending travelling of the oceans around the world, his role as navigator, way finder, researcher and teacher.

-on the right side, a Tiki Tiko Tangata motif from Rarotonga reflecting his role in building bridges between people, his role in the Pacific and connection with Rarotonga.

-Has a favourite quote of Papa Ron and wife Majorie that they both loved and lived by.

- the book motif reflects his lifelong role as researcher, writer and a teacher.

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