Syd Keepa, the Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi Vice-President Māori said he was saddened to hear of the passing on Sunday of Vera Kirihau Morgan, fondly known as ‘Aunty Vera’.
“Aunty Vera’s death is a great loss for her whānau, Te Māhurehure hapū, Ngāti Pōneke kapa, and Māoridom generally. Our grief in her passing is mixed with reflections on how marvellous and unique her life was” he said.
“Aunty Vera was kaumātua for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation for many years, and her impressive age was no limited to her leadership. She was all about living a full and healthy life. She was no quiet figurehead – Aunty Vera was an absolute role model for ‘walking the talk’.”
“Her first priority was her whānau, friends, iwi Māori, and her Hāhi Mihingare. She was a champion for the rights of Māori and also the rights of common folk. She supported the mahi of our Rūnanga to bring a strong Māori voice to the union movement.”
Born in 1917 in Waima, Hokianga, Aunty Vera received a Queen’s Service Medal in 1978. She became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 1998 for her services to the community of Wellington, where she lived for 80 years. Her many and varied community roles included; membership of Ngāti Pōneke Kapahaka from its beginning in the 1930s to the present; foundation member of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in 1951; acting as a mentor to numerous taitamariki Māori; owning and running the Wellington Downtown nightclub in the 1960s, and more recently being the patron of Tahiwi Kaumātua Kapahaka. At the age of 99 she walked 2.4 kilometers daily on her walking frame, leading her team in the Te Heke Ora 1000 kilometer challenge. This year she also celebrated her 100th birthday with high tea and a skydive.
Aunty Vera is currently laying in state at Pipitea marae, Wellington, and tomorrow will travel by ferry to Picton and on to Te Āwhina marae, Motueka. Her funeral service will be held there at 11am on Thursday.