Mama Puara Ao Henry and family at the unveiling memorial for her feeding father Pte Peta Teinamate. MELINA ETCHES /23081413
In a deeply emotional and poignant ceremony, the memory of a fallen soldier from Mangaia was honoured in the memorial unveiling of his headstone at the Nikao Cemetery.
The private unveiling ceremony for World War I Cook
Islands soldier Private (Pte) Peta Teinamate (60651) on Friday was attended by
close family, including his 80-year-old feeding daughter Puara Ao Henry, who
flew in from New Zealand, especially for the event.
Ao Henry was overwhelmed with emotion as she raised
the last veil to reveal her father’s restored headstone, finally seeing his
memory given the recognition it deserved. She was 14 years old when he died.
Her daughter Tera Ao Henry said her mother was about
six years old when she was brought up by Teinamate and her aunt Louisa (from
“She remembers him as being very kind and a hard
worker, always growing crops,” said Tera.
Teinamate was born on September 4, 1899, on Mangaia to
parents Teinamate (father) and Kino, who were both from Mangaia.
Puara Ao Henry, her daughter Tera Ao Henry (standing) and niece Maata Tutai at the unveiling memorial. MELINA ETCHES/23081410
He signed the New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Attestation for General Service on February 4, 1918.
Although he was medically discharged in New Zealand,
he re-enlisted in the 4th Contingent as “Peta Tei” on February 12, 1918, at
Narrow Neck Military Training Camp. He was discharged on December 7, 1918.
Teinamate returned to Mangaia and married a woman
named “Maera” or “Maeva” and they had a daughter.
Eventually, he moved to Rarotonga and lived with Mama
Louisa Rimamotu, from Mangaia, in Papua, Titikaveka, and together they raised
Mangaia’s Mata Tutai, whose 90-year-old mother Tino
Terei was also raised by Teinamate and Mama Louisa, attended the ceremony.
“Our mother said he was such a good man to all of
them, looking after them ... we are grateful to him and thank him for raising
our parents,” said Tutai.
King’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters spoke with
dignity and respect, tinged with both sorrow and reverence, reflecting on
Teinamate’s courageous sacrifice and the 500 Cook Islands men who had left
their homes to go to war.
Marsters said the ceremony was a poignant reminder of
the sacrifices made by brave men and the enduring impact they have on their
families and community.
The event also highlighted the dedication of Melvin
Arbuthnott, who had restored Teinamate's broken headstone, ensuring that it
regained its former glory.
For years, the headstone had been lying in storage in
a shed, then moved to the Cook Islands Returned Services Association (RSA)
where it had stood broken, leaning up against a fence.
King’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters takes a moment to reflect. MELINA ETCHES/23081408
Arbuthnott said he fixed the headstone, then used an
acid wash to clean all the gunk off, put on a new coat of paint, sanded it
down, and then gave it a clear coat.
The headstone now stands as a lasting monument,
reminding future generations of the sacrifices made by those who fought to
protect future generations.
According to his death certificate, Teinamate died
from the effects of a septic ulcer at Rarotonga Hospital. He was buried in
Titikaveka. His death was reported to the registry by his cousin Toru from
Cook Islands chief archivist Paula Paniani, who is a
member of the Cook Islands WW1 NZEF ANZAC Soldiers Research team, emceed the
“I would like to express my deep appreciation to the
family for remembering their Papa Pte Teinamate and laying his headstone
amongst 24 WW1 Soldiers buried inside the Nikao Cemetery,” said Paniani.
“He is not the first who is buried elsewhere, his
headstone is now standing proud in Nikao.
“Thank you from our A Team and volunteers.”
Teinamate’s four veils were raised by Reverend Teava
Nanai and his wife, Sir Tom Marsters, Numangatini Tangi Ariki and his wife,
Gail Eraio from Cook Islands RSA, and Puara Ao Henry.
At the closing of the ceremony, Phillip Strickland
fittingly played the Last Post.