Friday, 4 October 2013

Mac Bell Passes Away

The Passing of Peter McGruther Bell

Written and compiled by David Bell

Thursday, 26th September, 2013. A great light just went out; our chief died.

Only days before the word went out and we all hastened to his side from as far away as Australia, Christchurch and Auckland. Earlier, he had taken a few turns for the worse; his breathing hard and laboured. The cancer in his chest was suffocating him, occasioning a couple of ambulance dashes to the hospital. He was sent home after treatment and a special bed and machines were dispatched to his home to ease his discomfort and give him air. These were bad signs made worse after an x-ray showed the cancer running rampant through his lungs. He had never smoked a cigarette in his life so it wasn’t lung cancer by the usual causes. Most of us believe it was the result of a near-lifetime of spraying 2-4-5-D, a potent chemical spray for gorse, ragwort and other noxious farm weeds. He was a farmer and used tonnes of the stuff.

“That’s it,” he said to Miriam, his niece. “I’m for the high jump this time…not long to go now.” He was like that from the moment he heard the first diagnosis; accepting, openly bold, unafraid. But we all refused to accept he was about to go down too soon; we believed we would get at least one more Christmas with him. After all, he told us himself it would be January by his estimation. And, he was a fighter. He had suffered through several surgeries and two long, hard courses of chemotherapy. After the second course produced no good result it was decided there was nothing left to be done and he was sent home to see out what time nature might give him.

There would be no more Christmases. This time the cancer was moving hungrily through his body, consuming his energies. Deterioration was swift.

On the 26th of September his whole family was home. Kelvin and Karen had flown in from Queensland and Leslie arrived from South Africa. Denise, being a short distance away was a regular visitor and his wife, Pat, was constantly at his side. His brother Colin flew in from Australia just half an hour before he passed and his sister Jan and his brother David with wife Winnie had arrived earlier. Glenda had also driven down from Auckland. By chance, cousins Heather McGruther and her family had come in for a visit and it was a blessing to have their company and strength in that final hour. Mac's younger brother Stewart and daughter Kate hurried over from Australia arriving shortly after his passing.

On the 25th of September the district nurse paid a long visit and installed a morphine pump. The nurses in the family frowned at the news; a morphine pump is the sign that the end is only days – if not hours – away. 

It was somewhere in between.

He went downhill quickly; the fluid building in his lungs and slowly drowning him. Only the morphine eased his pain; keeping him heavily sedated and unconscious.

When the final moments came most of the family were in the living room chatting. No-one thought it would come so suddenly. It was Irene, Glenda’s daughter, who came running out to exclaim, “Uncle Mac’s going. If you want to say goodbye you have to come now!”

It took about half an hour from Irene’s call for the final breath to leave his body. He didn't die alone; we were all there. Pat had his head cradled in her arms and his sons and daughters held his hands and embraced him. 

Kelvin, alarmed at how he fought for those final breaths and anxious his suffering end, pleaded with him, “You can go Dad. It’s OK, we are all here. You can let go. You can go, Dad.”

We watched him slip away. He just went quiet. It was 9:45 p.m. We grieved, each of us in our own way, none of us yet able to imagine life without our great kaumatua. Gloominess fell about us, lightened only by our relief that his days of suffering were finished.

Mac had given specific orders that his body go directly from the mortuary to the crematorium. There was to be no funeral. His daughter Denise asked him, “What are we to do, stop at McDonald's?” He thought that would be a good enough idea. It was typical of him; generous in his acknowledgement of others but totally self-effacing of his own. But it was a command impossible to obey. There was no way someone who had left such a mark in everyone’s lives could get off so lightly. We humoured him, knowing it could never be that way.

He came home and lay in state from Friday 27th to Monday 30th of September. We knew his spirit had gone but his physical presence, though still and silent, was a comfort to us. No notifications were sent out but the bush telegraph ran red hot and the constant train of people that came to say their farewells was like a flowing river. Mac lived, flourished, and gained great mana in two worlds; an ability as rare and precious as gold. The well-wishers were from all walks; friends and family, old colleagues from his years at the Wananga, Waikeria Prison where he was a long-serving woodcarving tutor, and Purekireki Marae. Even folk from the Land Court and Waitangi Tribunal dropped by to pay respects. The Papesch family touched us all with their beautiful singing and the laments of the Maori folk who came to mourn his passing were all special moments which, despite Mac’s desire for a ‘no-frills’ send off, we are sure would have pleased him. 

It was a hard thing for the Maori that he wasn't resting at the marae, but on this he was especially adamant. He was a man of no fuss and we believe he wanted his family to be spared the intricacies of ceremony and ritual. He was well equipped to navigate through the two cultures, but not so the rest of us. Perhaps that’s why he requested there be no funeral; it was difficult to say no to one and favour the other – better to say no to both. In the end, it worked out well for all; somehow, equilibrium was struck.

The day of the funeral was grey and wet, but the Alexandra House chapel was filling up an hour before starting. By 2 p.m. it was filled to overflowing. The kapa-haka from the Pirongia School was outside singing, their music mingling with the rain. The sound of the organ signalled the service was about to begin and everyone quietened down.

The Funeral Service of Peter McGruther Bell

In Remembrance of Peter McGruther Bell
24th September 1939 – 26th September 2013
A service held at Alexandra House Chapel, Te Awamutu
on Monday 30th September 2013 at 2pm,
followed by a private Cremation.

Celebrant: Colin Walter Bell

The service began with the celebrant, Mac’s brother Colin, offering some welcoming remarks:

On behalf of Mac's family we welcome you to this funeral service in honour of Peter McGruther Bell, known to all of us as, Mac. 

For those of you who may not know me, I am Colin Bell, Mac's younger brother. I have been given the honour of conducting these proceedings. Thank you for coming and sharing this day with us and we ask you to quickly leave the sadness behind and go from here with a smile.

At this time I wish to thank all the people who have helped out over the past few days. Thank you Garth of Alexandra House for all your assistance, and our appreciation to June, our organist today. And, a special thanks to the Pirongia school kapa haka whose singing greeted us through the rain as we entered.  

The congregation all joined in offering the Lord’s Prayer.

The First Reading
By Reed Bell, Mac’s grandson

There Is No Death

I am standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!” Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is as large in mast and hull and spar as when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living weight to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And, just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “There she comes!”

And that is dying.

The congregation stood and sung the hymn, Amazing Grace.
The Eulogy was given by David Bell, Mac’s brother.


We are all here today in remembrance of Peter McGruther Bell. To his children and grandchildren he is simply Dad and Granddad, but to everyone else, most affectionately, Mac.
Our grandfather, father, husband, brother, uncle and friend, Mac Bell, passed away at 9:45 p.m. on Thursday, 26 September, 2013 in his home surrounded by family.

Mac was born the first child of Peter and Jean Bell on the old Puketotara family farm 24 September, 1939. He drew his first breath in the tiny farm cottage that was their home, delivered into the world by the renowned local midwife, Mrs Beatson, and Kura McGruther, his grandmother, a highly experienced nurse. 

He was, from birth, destined and set apart to be a vital and bright thread in the fabric of our family, a role he took very seriously and accomplished to near perfection.

A significant event occurred early in his life that I believe had much to do with his role as our firstborn and the way his life unfolded. I relate this incident in the words of Jean, his mother:
“Not long after Mac was born we took him to Kawhia with his grandparents to visit his Ngati Hikairo whanau. He was dressed in beautiful clothes especially made for him by Ngaro, an old aunt. Mac was taken away for a while, somewhere near Waipapa, and was returned to me wrapped in a shawl with no clothing. I wanted to ask where his clothes were and what they had done to him but my father gave me an intense look that suggested I shouldn't. As much as I wanted to, I didn't.” 

His mother was never told what customary rites might have been performed over him or what happened to his clothes, and we still don’t know to this day. That even his own mother had no idea is indicative of those times when the so-called more progressive Maori believed the European way the road to the future. Mac’s grandparents leaned that way but not quite so far that the old traditions still didn't have some pull.

Mac was raised with little or no connection to his native roots, yet something later in life drew him to his Maori side which took him on a long and fascinating journey that has become his legacy to us all and, in that legacy, our own awakening. Without him, our whakapapa and our korero would surely have died in our minds and in our hearts.
Mac, to all of us, was supposed to live forever; he was indestructible. He was our rock – a great chunk of granite. He even looked like it; a large boulder-like head set on a powerful, solid body that seemed to lack a neck, and short stumpy legs holding everything off the ground. An incident illustrates this:

One day in the bush behind his house up on the edge of the mountain, when taking a bunch of his young nieces and nephews for a bush walk, he got carried away with his antics, and being not as agile as he thought, tripped and fell down a steep incline. His circular, boulder-like body crashed down the slope like a wrecking ball, taking out pungas, small trees and everything else that stood in the way. When he finally stopped at the bottom he suffered only a few scratches and bruises and a wounded pride. Climbing back up through the swathe he had cut through the bush he was assailed by the gleeful laughter of the kids watching from the top.

Mac was our wrecking ball; he wasn’t supposed to get wrecked. His passing at just seventy four years old is a stark reminder to us all of our own mortality.

Mac was born into troubled times at the start of world War Two. He saw his uncles Colin and Jock go off to battle. He was just five when he saw the family devastated by the loss of their beloved Jock, killed in action in Italy. His father, Peter, also went to battle but fortunately he and his Uncle Colin both returned safely. After the war, as things settled, he and his family moved to Pirongia. About 1950 when he was eleven, they shifted to a farm in the Ngutunui district where he spent his school years at Pirongia then Te Awamutu College. 

Despite his grandparents being well educated and always encouraging learning, he wasn't the best of students and left high school with nothing much to show for it at the end of 1954. In later years he confessed he was a lot brighter than his high school years suggest and regretted putting so much of his energy into mischief, sport and trying to be tough. It wasn't until a lot of life had passed he realized that he had buried talents and abilities that could have been harvested much earlier. But one must consider how different life and attitudes were back then. Country kids were expected to be tough and one had to live up to those expectations. He had lived his infancy and early childhood through the war, a time that required resilience and toughness from everyone. Toughness and resilience, more than brains, were the order of the day. It was these very two qualities of character that got him through life and moulded him into the Mac we all knew.

One trait that stood out was his tough attitude toward work. He was a hard worker. During the school holidays he worked at a menswear shop in Te Awamutu. He hated it but nonetheless did it thoroughly and well. The pay was paltry, the hours long and he quickly realized that folding shirts all day and saying, 'May I help you sir?' was not what he wanted as a career. He preferred a more physically demanding vocation.

That opportunity came when he left school at fifteen to work on a sheep farm at Arohena. He liked the outdoor nature of the job but not the small pay packet that didn’t seem to reflect the long work hours.

He quit the Arohena job after a year and a half when some friends told him about jobs being offered by a contracting firm offering exceptional wages laying power lines into the rugged, bush-clad hill and mountain country around Kawhia. He got the job and began his career as a linesman. He was just eighteen.

Mac loved the job and quickly became an effective linesman and key member of the team. The work was hard and laborious and he grew tough and fit. The job was in the heart of his ancestral lands and though he had not yet heard the karanga of the old ones, he developed a love of the bush that was arguably the first sign of the journey he was soon to embark on; one might also say it was the first call sent out by his ancestors. There were many more to come.

When he left the job, he was at a loose end and wondering what to do. The opportunity came to work the farm of a long-time family friend. The farm was on the Kawhia Road not far from Pirongia.

Sometime earlier he met the stunning young lady who later became his wife. Her name was Patricia Brown and was undoubtedly the most gorgeous girl in the Waikato. Why she took such a liking to old boulder-head one will never know. The old saying, Love is Blind, must really be true, and I’m sure he couldn’t believe his luck. I hope he knows just how blessed and fortunate he has been to have had such a loyal and loving companion for all their years together, who went with him through thick and thin, and was with him, holding him tenderly in her arms when his time came. To Pat, we must give supreme tribute as the ideal of loveliness, goodness and motherhood. He did the best thing in his entire life when he married her on 21 June, 1962, at the St Saviour’s church in Pirongia.  

After several years he was ready to get a farming business of his own and acquired one at Waimiha in the heart of the King Country through Maori Affairs. Here they stayed for many years, now with a family of four in tow. The Waimiha farm was tucked in among mountains and bush and it was here that his love of the bush came back to him. Also, the local marae ran cultural and educational programs for the locals which he got involved in. At one of these sessions he had what might be called an epiphany…he discovered a talent he never knew existed in him; he could carve wood. Over time he discovered an artistic streak that was impossible to contain and every time he went to the bush, he came back with bits of wood to chip away at. He started with simple walking sticks and patu but soon grew in confidence and moved to bigger things. By the time they left Waimiha to a farm at Parawera, he had a good grasp of the skill.

At Parawera, a chance meeting with Paki Harrison, a renowned carver, changed his life forever. Recognizing Mac’s growing talent he hired him as an apprentice carver. This relationship took Mac on the course in life I believe he was destined to take. Within a short time he was part of a management team that set up an organisation that from the most humble of beginnings became New Zealand’s foremost Maori educational institution, rivalling and bettering the established universities and Polytechnics. The three of them, Paki Harrison, Mac and Rongo Wetere were the founding fathers of Te Wananga Aotearoa. He was one of three ordinary men who dared to dream and make that dream a legacy to the world. It doesn't get much better than that and he was always proud of his part in it. Later, he went out on his own and his prodigious output can be seen in numerous places all over the country. I like to think our own Purekireki Marae is his masterpiece.

The last part of his life was spent living at Waiari on the Te Awamutu Road and then the dream home he and Pat built up Waite's Road.
They were great days at Waiari, made even greater by its ironic but apt location; it was the place where his ancestors lived. The great Waiari pa was the home of Hikairo 2, the eponymous ancestor of our Maori tribe, Ngati Hikairo. Along with that, the farm was good, the house comfortable, and he was doing what he loved.

Then, in the year 2003 he spotted an opportunity to live closer to something that was part of his soul; the bush. A property at the foot of Pirongia Mountain came up for sale, and if they could sell the Pirongia farm they would be able to buy the mountain property. It was a hard decision; Waiari was a great spot with ancestral connections and, furthermore, they were happy there. It was a choice between being 'sensible' and 'practical' by remaining where they were, or taking the chance and follow the dream. The dream won and without too much trouble the Waiari farm sold and they purchased the sixty acre block on the mountain. After a year living in a shed while a new house was being built, the dream was completed and they moved in.

Mac was the sun around which all we lesser planets orbited, and like everywhere else, the house on the mountain became a gathering place for family and friends from far and wide. The location was spectacular. Tucked into the foot of the mountain it offered a sweeping frontal panorama down and across the whole Waipa valley, and out the back, only a few steps away, was the bush. It was as near to Mac's idea of paradise as one can come to in this world. The forest abounded with native bird life: wood pigeons, tuis, bellbirds, bush robins and more. Even the odd wild pig and deer occasionally appeared.

Age and illness ruined the dream. Pat's body was showing signs of wear from all the years of stress and physical toil most other women would have crumbled under, and Mac got cancer. Selling their mountain paradise and moving to the village became their only option.

In 2012 the farm left their possession and they took up residence at 553 Ross Street Pirongia. It was expected that this was where they would see out their days. 

Mac’s time came last Thursday after battling his illness, and true to form, he put up a massive fight. In that fight he gave us plenty of time to prepare and he was surrounded by family right to the end. Nevertheless, it was a hard thing to see our Mighty-Mac leave us. But we know he is with his loving mother and family. He is probably, even now, learning all about our whakapapa from his Hikairo ancestors, gathering up more knowledge to send our way. I don’t believe we've heard the last of him.

Mac, my great brother, may I leave you with a short message from the scriptures as our final farewell?  It’s from 1 Corinthians 15:53-55.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory?
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, be ye steadfast, unmovable  always abounding in the work of the Lord…for your labour is not in vain with the Lord.

Mac was a steadfast sort of man if ever there was one; immovable in his decisions if he knew them to be right and for the good. I am witness to his bounteous good works. He was our Kaumatua in the best sense of the word. Our whole whanau has benefited from his good works towards us, and almost countless are those he has touched for the better.
Christ died to conquer death that we might have eternal Life. Death has lost its sting and the grave its victory. Mac is in the comfort of his God and all his kin from ages past.  

Farewell Mac until we meet again. Thank you for all you did. You are the best. In life you were all of these: a strong man, a tough dude, a funny guy, a good father, great with kids and beneath that tough exterior beat a good and kind heart. You were by no means perfect; you had flaws like all of us, but I perceive that in your new abode you will learn much more and when we see you again we will hardly recognise you…you might even have a neck!  

I know you weren't one to express sentimentality and I’ll risk a hiding by saying, ‘You are my older brother and I really do love you.’

In the name of Christ the Redeemer,


Mac’s sons Kelvin and Leslie spoke about their father.

Kelvin: My name is Kelvin Bell, second eldest of the family of four. On behalf of my family I would like to thank everyone for their kind thoughts and support and coming today to celebrate Dad’s life. I would like to share a little story with you about an event that took place on the farm – a father and son moment many years ago.

Before I do, let me tell you about my dad. Dad a great ability to take on a situation and quickly analyse the good from the bad, right from wrong, the why-fors and where-fors, and then prioritize everything and get on with it. Dad loved a good debate, whether it is politics, culture, history, and even the selection of the All Blacks! If someone dropped the ball they were idiots and, ‘It would never have happened in my day!’ he would say.

He was very persuasive at getting his opinion across. And there is only once that I can recall Dad ever being lost for words and I would like to share that moment with you.

It happened when we were on the Bayleys Road farm when Dad gave me the challenge to kill two sheep provide for the Bell family table. Dad always believed that everyone should be able to contribute and help provide for the Bell family in one form or another. I willingly accepted the challenge and was proud to do so.

Dad had to go to town for the day and two of my schoolmates were coming out to muck around on the farm for the day and give a hand to kill the sheep. Dad and I had our usual procedure; grab the gun, put the trailer on the tractor to head out and find the sheep. After that, he went off to town and left me to it, asking one last time if I was able to do the job. I assured him I was up to it.

The sheep roamed the farm at will but for some unknown reason they seemed to sense when one of them was about to bless the Bell dinner table, so they would head for the steepest paddock on the farm, find a patch of gorse and hide behind it.

As usual, I parked the tractor at the top of the hill and shuffled down and found our sheep and killed them with no problems. Then I walked back up and me and my mates hopped on the tractor and started to make our way down to the sheep.

That’s when it all went terribly wrong. I lost control of the tractor and it took off down the hill. We all bailed off and the tractor rolled and bounced self-destructing straight past the sheep and landing upside-down in the swamp. As I stood at the top of the hill looking down at what had unfolded in front of my very eyes, my butt cheeks tightened and I wondered how I was going to explain this one to Dad.

My two friends and I carried the sheep to the shed where we dressed them and left them to hang. Then, my two great mates got out as quick as they could go.
In due course dad came home and asked how I got on with the sheep.

“Yep, it’s all good, no worries, they‘re hanging in the shed.” But I had a bit of trouble with the tractor. It went down the hill and I got it stuck in the swamp” Dad said it was OK and that when we get the cows in we would go and have a look and pull it out while Mum was milking. As we made our way to the paddock and walked up over the brow, the tractor wheel marks were visible on the opposite side of the gully.

“Where were you?” Dad asked a bit puzzled. I told him straight across. He said nothing.

As we walked over the brow what had happened became clearly visible; bits of tractor spread out in a straight line from about half way down the hill to an upside-down tractor in the swamp.

At that moment there was an age of silence; not even a bird chirped. My butt cheeks tightened even more. More silence as his stunned brain struggled to process what it was seeing. Then, I swear, all Dad’s ancestry came pouring out of him at once. He yelled at me in English, Irish, Scottish, French and Maori all at the same time as well as doing a haka! That’s the only time I've seen Dad tripping over his tongue to find words that made sense!

On that note I thank you Dad for our colourful life you provided for us; the family gatherings at Christmas, all the hangis, the pig hunting, diving at Ruapuke, family bullrush, and so on. And, wherever you are now we know you will continue your colourful life that we came to know and love. Goodbye.

As Kelvin left the podium his talk had one last twist. As he walked past the casket he paused and remarked, “Oh, one last thing, sorry about the tractor Dad!”
Leslie: That’s not the story I heard (referring to Kelvin’s talk). I heard he was showing off to his mates!

Hi I’m Leslie Bell, or Bull, the youngest son. My first memory of Dad as a child was when he would take me out on the farm at Waimiha. You would think at the age of three or four I was to sit and watch Dad work, but oh no, everyone had to work!  He would put the tractor into a low gear, tie bailing string to the wheel and then to the side of the tractor. My job was to sit in the driver seat and hold the steering wheel straight while he fed hay to the cows. This is something I and the rest of the kids learned off him early on in life.  We learned to work hard and smart and he would say, ‘It doesn’t matter what you do, just be good at it because if you were becoming a passenger and sitting around watching you would soon get a kick up the bum!” something that happened to Kelvin all the time.

One day when we were out on the farm Dad had this great idea. Now, Waimiha gets pretty cold in the winter and the troughs in the paddocks would freeze over. Dad gave the trough a bit of a tap to check the thickness of the ice and decided it was OK to put me on it to play. I remember taking about three steps and crack, through I went. The next thing I remember is this big hand grabbing me out of the icy water. I was quickly taken home for a warm bath and to mum going mad.

We moved to Korokanui which was a sheep farm that had been converted into a dairy farm. There was a house and a cow shed, but not a lot else.  The Farm needed a lot a work; fencing spraying and general farm infrastructure which were right up Dad’s ally because it became clear there was one thing he didn’t do well; milking bloody cows, as he would have put it. He hated it and freely admitted it. So Dad knocked the farm into shape and Mum milked and looked after the cows.

I suppose it was like any other father-son relationship, I thought he was awesome. But it wasn’t until Te Awamutu College decided to build a marae on the school grounds and Master Carver Paki Harrison was commissioned to do it that I saw Dad really shine. Dad was one of the leaders and a carver on the project.

He had made a hobby of wood carving over the years but I think farming got in the way. By now the farm was set up and he was hooked into his new passion and he had to do something to get out of milking. I don’t know exactly know when or how he meet Paki but from that day on things where never to be the same.

Dad quickly went from dairy farmer to Master Carver and his passion for his new career was incredible. I remember the earlier days of the work skills Kokiri Centre which soon developed into the Wananga, of which he was a founding member. Seeing him teaching his skills to others and reading and researching to further his own knowledge was inspiring. I think these where the days he really seemed fulfilled and his life seemed complete; something milking cows could never do. His ability to look at a piece of timber and turn it into a master-peace was something very special.
I know Dad was lucky to have someone like Mum who supported him and encouraged him to follow his true love; wood carving and the Maori arts.
Thanks Mum. Thanks Dad!

The congregation sung the Hymn: Tama Ngakau Marie, led by Sharon and Georgina Tautari

                                                     A Time For Sharing

After the hymn the congregation was invited to share their thoughts and words. Colin Bell began with his speech; Growing Up With Mac.

My earliest recollections of Mac go right back to World War II days. we were both toddlers then and we always seemed to be together and when I talk about my early days growing up with Mac, it's difficult to do so without always including myself because I was his shadow. Wherever Mac went I was right behind him. 

Even in those early days he developed a very strong sense of responsibility towards me and as I was two years younger he quickly assumed the role of brother and protector, and as new brothers and sisters were added to the family he took on the responsibility for them too and never relinquished it until the day he left us. This is not to say that Mum neglected us, it's just that Mac was always there to steer us away from what could be a bad situation. For example, we were sometimes allowed to play at the river without supervision and we were given strict instructions about where to play turning over rocks to catch crayfish, cockabullies and other river creatures. In later years when I question Mum on the wisdom of letting us play alone she simply said that when Mac was with me she knew he wouldn't move from the designated safe area and wouldn't allow me to either.

On one occasion, when Dad was working at the cowshed, Mac and I went to the river to one of the designated unsafe areas. Guess who fell in the water? Mac had the presence of mind to run back to the cowshed and get Dad. They caught me just as I was tumbling towards the rapids at the end of the pool. I think he might have saved my life that day. 

When Dad got home I think he might have ended up wishing that it was him that went floating down the river. Domestic bliss and harmony wasn't top priority for a while in our family after that.

Mac always seemed to do things that made me proud of my big brother and when I see the things that he has achieved over the years I'm still proud of my big brother.

He was extremely innovative and when we were playing sixth grade football together for Pirongia School, he pioneered a new type of fend but was penalized twice for fending off a tackler using his closed fist innovation. I thought it a bit unfair and it took me a while to forgive Clarrie Schwartzfeger for being such a one-eyed ref. Mac also played Gwynne Shield (Waikato Rep.) rugby and was even selected as a Maori All Black trialist but dislocated his shoulder in a club match and that saw the end of his football career. These things are nectar to hero-worshiping younger brothers, but none of these made me as proud of him than when I stood beside him as his best man as he and Pat were married.

To some extent we lost that closeness when we went our separate ways, especially when I moved my family to Australia in 1970. But despite the distance our bond was never totally severed. Family ties are very strong.

It wasn't always easy for Mac. There were down times when that showed up early in life and he would tell me things that deeply troubled him, things that continued to trouble him throughout his life. This caused him to be quite abrasive at times and he was never one to hold back his opinions and voice them. Unresolved troubles and the resulting abrasiveness often created friction in his family.

But as we say goodbye to him, now is the time to cast aside the negatives and celebrate his many positives. Indeed, we may say that Mac was spurred by the negatives and the positives were the means by which he was able to achieve the great things he did during his seventy-four years. 

Now, Mac, it's time for me to say goodbye. Thanks for the good times. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for being the big brother that you are. I may not always have agreed with you but I always looked up to you. This door on this part of your long journey has closed, but another door has just opened and a new journey has begun. May you always have straight roads and fair weather as you travel. May you find happiness and and reach your full potential in God's great kingdom.

Until we meet again my brother

After that there was no shortage of speakers wishing to express their feelings towards Mac. Several Maori from various places like the Wananga, the Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and Purekireki Marae gave eloquent tributes. Kelsey Arbery said a few words of her own and read a letter from Maxine Tutauha, Mac’s niece in Australia.

Maxine’s letter: Before I begin I would like to thank all of you here on behalf of my mother, my brother and sister and myself, for your efforts, large and small, for being here today to help us mark my Uncle’s passing.

Each of you here had your own relationship with my Uncle Mac. Each of you has your own set of memories and your own word-picture that describes this man. I don’t presume to know the man that you knew. But I hope that, in this eulogy that I offer, you will recognise some part of the man that we all knew, the man that is no longer among us, the man who will never be gone from our hearts and minds.

My uncle Mac was raised in the in-between generation, born in the years immediately before World War Two, what they call the “silent generation”. A generation with one foot firmly planted in the 1940′s with the other placed unsteadily in the 1960′s.

Our Uncle Mac can be defined in part I think by his sense of honour, by his understanding of right and wrong. He was a fiercely loyal man, loyal to his family, loyal to his friends and loyal to the values that he learned from his parents and grandparents. Our Uncle Mac has always strove to be fair above all. Sometimes he was, sometimes he wasn’t; always he tried. These same character traits are ones that both family and I have, learned or inherited it doesn't matter, but what he was so have we become.

Our uncle, brother and father had a quick temper; a temper that flared, ran hot, and died just as quickly. That could be thought a flaw if it were not combined with another part of his character, his difficulty in holding a grudge. He and I talked about this one day; it came up because he knew that I had struggled at times with that same temper. The way he put it was, “Let things go and don’t give anyone the power to make you feel like a victim.” This pair of traits helped me in later years.

My Uncle told the best hunting stories. I have unsuccessfully tried to enjoy outdoor life. I quickly realized I preferred five-star hotels and room service over a shabby cloth for a tent chasing my food through the bush with the pig dog. You can’t beat a Bell story which can pull you in to thinking that it sounds unbelievable and guess what? it is unbelievable!  I was fooled into thinking that a bush banana would taste fantastic but it was like cardboard. I wasted two hours of hard walking through bush, prickles, and a swarm of bees for this! That was my last outdoor adventure.

Our Uncle Mac was an interested and interesting man whose imperfections provided the colour in his character while his strengths gave his character its wonderful shape.

My family and I are who we are because of what this man was. We will always miss him.

Maxine, Darren and Kyle.


The reading of Maxine’s letter was followed by a video photo presentation about Mac. It was well received by all present.

The Final Reading
 Denise Blyde, Mac’s daughter.

Welcome everyone, my name is Denise, the eldest of Mac and Pat's children. Thank you for coming to share this part of Dad's journey with us. A couple of months ago I found this saying on a piece of paper in Dad's room: Our tupuna knew that the way forward should be in gentleness; the peaceful way. Strengths like these sit with: 
1. Hinengaro ~ thoughts, feelings, emotions and mental health.
2. Ngakau-whanau ~ the heart and family health.
3. Wairua ~ spiritual health.

I always meant to ask him  what he knew about it, but as we got busier looking after Dad, I never did. What puzzled me was that the fourth dimension, the tinana or physical health of our being, was missing from his piece of paper.

As time went by I realised that at some stage, whether through accident or injury, illness at a young age, or by the natural ageing process that comes to us all, we will all lose that physical dimension. It must be very important, therefore, to have the other three dimensions nurtured, cared for and in order so that when called upon they put adversity in perspective so we can move forward peacefully.

Dad had these things in order, calling on the hinegnaro, ngakau-whanau and wairua to ease his transition into the next step on his journey, a journey we will all take eventually in one form or another.

This model compares to the four walls of a whare (house), all necessary to ensure strength and symmetry, each representing a different dimension that is required for individuals and communities to live a happy and fulfilling life. 

To Those Whom I Love and Those Who Love Me

When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do,
You mustn't tie yourself to me with too many tears,
Be thankful we had so many good years.

I gave you my love and you can only guess
How much you have given me in happiness.
I thank you for the love that you have shown,
But now it’s time I travelled on alone.

So grieve for me a while, if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part,
So treasure the memories in your heart.

I won’t be far away for life goes on.
And if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can’t see or touch me, I will be near.
And if listen with your heart, you’ll hear,
All my love around you, soft and clear.

And then, when you come this way alone,
I’ll greet you with a smile and a ‘Welcome Home.’

The Committal
Colin Bell, the celebrant, performed the Committal 

Today has been a time for grieving and a time for celebration as we both acknowledge our tragic loss and Mac's great achievements. we are grateful he is now free of his suffering and pain and can continue his journey unhindered. 

His memory will always be cherished by his family and those who knew him and worked with him. And now, Heavenly Father, we give thanks for the seventy four years that we've had him with us, for his life and for his invaluable contributions to his family and community. 

It is our hope and prayer that he will be received into thy kingdom and come to know of thy love and the love of his Saviour. We now commit his body to the natural elements and to the nature that he loved so much, and his spirit to God who gave him life.


The coffin was carried out to the hearse by Mac’s grandsons to the hymn, Ma Te Marei, led by Sharon and Georgina Tautari. The Pirongia School performed a haka as the car left for the crematorium. The guests then retired to the Alexandra House lounge and enjoyed refreshments.

It was, by all accounts, a great send-off. Whether Mac was looking down with a scowl or a smile I don’t know. But this I do know, there was no other way; he was just too loved and respected and people required a forum to vent their grief or express their gratitude for his innumerable good deeds.

As for his family, it will be a great many days before we get used to the hole he has left in our lives.

Additional Note: added by David Bell, 17 June 2016. 
I have always endeavored to keep these family history stories upbeat and positive, believing that we are all human and make mistakes along our life journeys, and, that our errors and slip-ups are learning experiences and as such should be left behind when our lives end. The 'school of life' can be a tough testing ground at the best of times and it is hoped that the tests and examinations we all experience help to shape and mold us into better human beings by the end of our allotted time here.

My oldest brother Mac was, to me, the ultimate big brother. I owe so much to him, but I always knew he was not perfect. I knew he had a bit of a temper which could be quite volatile when released. I know he could be very strong-willed; some might say overbearing and controlling. I know he could be physically abusive when his temper got out of control. I know he had a lot of pride and probably never said 'sorry' his entire life. These, I suppose, were his particular 'demons', if you will .

In all my life with him I personally saw little of these 'demons', he was always pretty good to me. But, I must admit, I have always been a naive kind of person (more especially when I was young) with the tendency to see everything through rose-colored glasses. I tended to ignore the bad stuff as much as I could. This was so with Mac, but some things I could not ignore. As a young boy I once witnessed an incident of domestic violence, the like of which I would today call unacceptable. I also witnessed our ruined Christmas when he lost his head over some things my father said in the local pub and took it to the next level by  instigating a violent confrontation with my father on Christmas day in my grandparents' home. It was so bad that our Christmas was cancelled that day. These were the two I remember, incidents strong enough to let me see, even as a boy, his troubled side.

Yet, for all his weaknesses, he had an abundance of strengths and good points from which I, for one, greatly benefited.  I will not outline these here as they have been well covered in previous writings. 

The purpose of this article is simply to show that despite his foibles he was predominantly a good man who made some serious mistakes along the way, particularly within his own family. I also write in respect to his children who were the ones who suffered most from the disharmony in their family. I write it with respect to my brother who also went through things in his life that shaped his own behaviors.

Something happened after his passing that caused a family episode that was traumatic and painful and while now fairly settled down, is certainly not resolved and it's unsure if it ever will be in this lifetime.  This incident brought out stuff that had been suppressed and ignored for years. It seemed to release an explosion of memories, anger and emotions that took us all by surprise. Stuff gushed out that I never knew possible and I was left reeling. The following is an outline of the whole affair, bullet-pointed for the sake of brevity:

  • Mac passes away September 2013.
  • Mac's wife Pat takes a new partner within weeks after Mac's death.
  • Pat plans to set up house with her new partner and invests large sums of money into the relationship.
  • The Children become alarmed at the swiftness of her transition and the money she is investing. They also become suspicious of her new partner, his motives, and her relationship with him before their father's passing.
  • The new partner moves into the family home a few weeks after Mac's death which infuriates the children.
  • The children become concerned about their parent's assets and make moves to protect them.
  • Pat and her partner make counter moves and bad feelings escalate.
  • Meetings chaired by the executors are called in an attempt to solve the impasse. In his will Mac left everything to Pat except the house in Pirongia which became half owned by his four children. The children gave up on trying to secure the substantial savings and investments left by their father and concentrated on the house. Pat was insistent on selling it outright but the wanted to keep the house and rent it. They saw this as the best way of protecting their only secure inheritance from their father.
  • Pat refuses all her children's requests and propositions. Ill feelings increase.
  • It becomes a legal issue and the children engage another lawyer to counter the estate lawyer who, incredibly, represents all the conflicting parties.
  • In the end the children agree to sell the house as long as it sells for the current market value or more. 
  • The house is eventually sold
The above is an abbreviated summary (to write everything would fill a book) of the whole business which was bitter, protracted and traumatic for all parties caught up in it. The following is my personal view of it. Others involved would obviously have their own perspectives which I must leave for them to write about should they wish to do so. I can only comment on how I saw things as one of the executors responsible for trying to sort it all out. 

(to be continued...need to think about it )

1 comment:

  1. Uncle Dave - thanks so much for posting this blog entry. It was so great to read it and made it a little easier for me not being over there with you all. There was lots of information there about Uncle Mac that I did not know so it is nice to fill a few more of the family history holes. It sounds like it was a great send off and I really wish I could have been there! Much love to Aunty Pat, Denise, Kelvin, Karyn and Bull and all the rest of the family - I'm thinking of you all lots!

    Although living in Australia has meant that I have not had a lot to do with Uncle Mac - I have always known that he was a huge part of our family. I still have hanging on the end of my bed the maori 'putu' which Uncle Mac carved for me and gave to me when I was about 14 and visiting New Zealand with Dad and Beth and Kate. Dad (Stewart) insisted that I take it with me when I first moved out of home and went away to live on campus at university when I was 17 - he said that it must be kept by my bed at all times and it still does to this day!

    We were fortunate enough to all be able to have a family trip to New Zealand for Nana's 90th thanks to my Mum & Dad - and the time we spent at Uncle Mac's and Aunty Pat's place up on the mountain is truly a special, special memory. Uncle Mac welcomed my own children like his own grandchildren and myself and my husband Matt like we had always lived just down the road - not the family he had only met on a few occasions - and for me that will always be a lesson on how 'family' should operate. No matter the years or the distance that separates - Family is always Welcome.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    Lots of Love
    Jess, Matt, Jack, Toby, Lexi and One more to come in April 2014, Fealy! The Mareeba, Far North Queensland, Australia part of the family.