HAERE E TE WHAEA
Mrs Puhi-O-Aotea Ratahi, president of the Ratana Church, and spiritual leader of more than 23,000 Maoris, died suddenly at Ratana Pa on 17 April. She was the last sister of the founder of the church Tahu Potiki Wiremu Ratana, and had been its president for 16 years. She succeeded her nephews, Matiu Ratana and Tokorua Haami Ratana in 1950.
Her work for the church was linked with a close interest in the welfare and development of the Maori people, and this work will be remembered by the whole of the Ratana movement and the Maori people in general.
With massed bands, choirs and almost 4000 mourners present Mrs Ratahi was buried at Ratana Pa on 23 April as both Maori and Pakeha paid tribute. Three separate services were held—on the marae, inside the Ratana temple, and at the graveside in the Piki Te Ora cemetery. As a special mark of respect, the coffin was carried inside the temple, whereas for more than 20 years all others have remained outside.
The funeral began with a tape recording of Mrs Ratahi's last public speech, made at the Tauranga Easter convention of the Ratana Youth Movement. Ratana leaders led the service on the marae, which was marked by a eulogy from a representative of the National Council of Churches, the Rev. G. Laurenson.
The cortege moved from the marae to the temple, which was filled to capacity with more than 2000 people, while the rest of the mourners remained outside.
At the graveside, the Rev. H. C. Edmonds, vice-president of the Church, officiated, assisted by the Rev. Kingi Thaka, of Wellington, representing the Church of England.
Many speakers paid tribute to the memory of Mrs Ratahi and her work. Among them were a large number of dignitaries, including the Mayor of Wanganui, Mr R. P. Andrews, representatives of the Government, the Labour Party, and local bodies.