They showered her with the same love and devotion that she had shown so many for so long in over four decades as the Rongomatane.
The government dispatched an air ambulance to bring her to Rarotonga Hospital where a large group of people cared for her to the very last and supported her children Nicky and Maeu and her sisters Frances and Annie as they arrived from overseas.
The “A-team” included Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters and his wife Tuaine, Bishop Tutai Pere, Nooroa Ellingham, Upokotea Bob, Mii Quarter, Tony Kea, Nga Teao, Ake Lewis, Maryanne Upoko and many others whose love, care and devotion to her comfort was truly touching.
The medical team prognosis was that we should pray for a miracle and many hundreds did exactly that, but it was not to be. As a devoted member of the Cook Islands Christian Church she would have been moved by all those prayers.
When she passed away on the night of January 9, the focus became giving this unique and beautiful person a deserved and beautiful send-off.
The spontaneous outpouring of love mixed with sorrow by so many was a tribute to her humble approach to her devoted and uplifting service to her people through all their ups and downs, joys and sorrows, day in and day out.
The first service at the Atiu Hall in Rarotonga was filled to overflowing as one speaker after the next paid tribute to Ada Rongomatane’s sincere, grassroots contributions to the people of Ngati Paruarangi, Atiu and the wider Cook Islands since ascending to the Rongomatane title on Fenruary 23. 1972. She subsequently served as president of the House of Ariki as well as patron of the Cook Islands National Council of Women among many other roles.
The Queen’s Representative and his wife led the delegation to escort Ada Rongomatane from Rarotonga back to her final resting place in Atiu along with the prime minister’s wife Akaiti (due to the prime minister being overseas), Health minister Nandi Glassie, the presidents of the House of Ariki and Koutu Nui, the leader of the Opposition and planeloads of friends and relatives from around the Cook Islands and overseas. The population of Atiu was temporarily doubled.
Atiu Airport was draped in royal purple and there was standing room only for the first service, after which the funeral procession proceeded on foot through the town led by the Boy’s Brigade band, Girl Guide flag bearers and hundreds of mourners. There was no shortage of pall bearers as people lined up to carry Ada Rongomatane on her final journey.
Over 100 years ago, the Rongomatane at the time granted the Catholic Church the land upon which to build a church and this grant was extended in perpetuity by Ada Rongomatane at no cost. So a heartfelt service was also held at the Catholic Church, with the highlight being the singing of the children’s choir.
Hours of speeches and tributes flowed into the night at the Rongomatane Palace, with tears of sorrow and laughter in equal measure as speaker after speaker paid tribute to the sincere, tireless, hard work that “Queenie” (as she was affectionately known) put into uplifting the day to day lives of her people, always with humility and dignity. There were more tributes in the morning before the funeral procession proceeded to Taturoa-I-Te-Puta-Marama for a most energetic and fulsome service conducted by Bishop Pere in the Meeting House.
The final service at the Cook Islands Christian Church, where Ada Rongomatane was a devoted member of the congregation, was marked by tearful eulogies and soaring traditional hymns led by Reverend Michael Akava.
A magnificent mausoleum had been prepared by Morgan Tatira who had flown from Aitutaki to build it, using materials shipped from Rarotonga on a barge diverted by the Sword family, underscoring just how many people wanted to be part of honouring Ada Rongomatane’s life’s work for her people.
With the sounds of hymns from the assembled mourners, the smell of flowers that she loved and last tearful farewells her son Nicky closed the tomb and Ada Rongomatane was laid to rest.
2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Rest In Peace.
- Taturoanui Crocombe