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Jonah remembered with love

Monday 23 November 2015 | Published in Regional


Jonah remembered with love
Jonah Lomu's mother, Hepi Lomu, lights a candle during a public memorial service for her loved son and international sporting hero at the Lotofalei'a Tongan Methodist Church in Mangere on Sunday. TVNZ

MANGERE – Great rugby star Jonah Lomu has been remembered as an inspirational dreamer, whose heart never left the Tongan community of South Auckland.

An emotional memorial service was hosted by the Lotofale’ia Tongan Methodist Church in Mangere on Sunday afternoon.

New Zealand’s Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and fellow Mangere boy Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga told of seeing Lomu not long before his death, remembering him as full of energy, humble and thoughtful as ever.

On behalf of the government and Prime Minister John Key Lotu-Iiga extended his sympathies to Lomu’s family.

“He was a school boy phenomenon of Wesley College, just a year out of college he was playing as the youngest All Black ever.

“He taught us to reach for the stars, dream big and strive for excellence. Through his love and passion for the game he created opportunities for everyone around the world.

“He of course played a huge part in bringing the Rugby World Cup back here in 2011.For me as a Mangere boy, he was still the boy who grew up here in Favona.”

Tongan dignitaries, local community board members, members of parliament and friends and family gathered at the church to remember the rugby legend on Sunday.

The ceremony began with opening speeches followed by a candle lighting ceremony where members of Lomu’s extended family including aunties, cousins and his sisters, lit 40 candles – one for each year of his life.

Many in the large crowd, including Lomu’s mother, friends and family, wiped away tears throughout the service, which included prayer and song.

Memorial organiser Salote Heleta-Lilo welcomed the congregation, saying Lomu’s “legacy will never go away forever”.

She described how Lomu grew up in Mangere and went to Wesley College. She called him a “God-gifted son of the Pacific” and said the community had been “paralysed” by his death.

“We shall miss your presence, Jonah. You have taught our community to dream for their future.”

MP Sua William Sio, who was invited to the service by family, said he counted himself among Lomu’s friends, and got to know him well while travelling with him in 2011.

“He will always be a son of Tonga and the Pacific,” he said. “And he will always be a son of the South Side.

“He encompasses us – the good, the bad and the ugly. Real people. He inspired us all. When he ran on the field, we ran on with him. When he crashed through tackles, we crashed with him. And when he scored, we scored too.” The service, which was also attended by a representative of the Tongan royal family, was live-streamed so that Tonga and other Pacific Island nations could be involved in remembering Lomu, a player who represented them all on the international stage.

Large numbers of the guests wore ta’ovala, a traditional woven skirt, to show respect.

- PNC sources