AUCKLAND – Jonah Lomu’s family have confirmed that a public memorial service will be held for the rugby superstar, although details have yet to be revealed.
Lomu died suddenly this week, aged 40, after a holiday in Dubai.
Former All Black coach John Hart spoke on behalf of the Lomu family outside the All Black great’s home at a media conference, with Lomu’s mother Hepi, rugby legend Michael Jones and other family members also appearing.
Hart confirmed there would be a public service, followed by a private funeral at the family’s church.
The family hoped to confirm the details of the public service on Monday, but Lomu’s private service would be held as a Mormon church funeral.
He said details of the venue and time should be announced in the next 48 hours, with discussions being held between family, rugby officials and the government over the details.
It will not be a state funeral, Hart said, but it will be a “substantial” event.
He did confirm that Eden Park was one of the venues being discussed.
“This gathering could be the biggest we’ve had for any such occasion in New Zealand.”
He said the public memorial service would be a celebration of Lomu’s life.
Hart said that the family have “got their dad back in the house with them now.”
Lomu’s body would likely stay at the family home until the funeral, he said.
Hart also gave more details about the circumstances of Lomu’s death.
He said he appeared to be in good health but died overnight on Tuesday and was found in his bed in the morning. Hart said that it appeared likely he died of a cardiac arrest.
Hart said the family had received messages of condolences from all corners of the world and were touched by international newspapers honouring him with obituaries and dedications.
In emotional Facebook posts, Lomu’s wife Nadene simply stated “My heart is broken”. It was later followed with a promise to care for the couple’s two children Brayley, 6, and Dhyreille, 5.
“I will be the best mum to our gorgeous sons and we will send kisses to the heavens everyday for the hero you are and will forever be. We will shout to the stars, forever your always!”
She started a Givealittle page to fundraise for the family’s future which saw such high traffic it crashed the Givealittle website.
More than $4000 had been donated by Friday morning. Speaking on behalf of the Lomu Hart said the page would be taken down as its intentions were not clearly understood.
He said the page was set up after a number of people asked to donate money.
“At the time it was thought this was probably an appropriate way to handle that.”
He said Nadene asked for the site to be taken down on Friday following publicity around the page.
Meanwhile the Tongan community in Auckland has organised a memorial to be held tomorrow at Lotofale’ia Church in Mangere from 6pm to 9pm.
Tongan community leader Salite Veleta-Lil said she was expecting an enormous response.
“The Tongan community and the Pacific island community come together when tragedies like this happen. We’ve lost our son. He’s like a son to us.”
The majority of attendees would be Tongan, Veleta-Lil said, though she was expecting lots of Pacific islanders and European New Zealanders to also join in to pay their respects.