29 Oct 2020

Aucklanders today farewell Dr Joe Williams

2:34 pm on 29 October 2020

Thousands of Pacific islanders living in New Zealand will farewell one of their beloved sons today.

Former Cook Islands prime minister and doctor, Joe Williams, died last month of Covid-19 in Auckland where he had been working as a physician.

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Photo: NZ government

He was 85 years old.

With restrictions eased, a public memorial service and community celebration of Dr Williams' life will be held at Manukau this afternoon.

Dr Williams was buried at a small, private service under alert level two restrictions last month.

He was hailed as a national hero during a state memorial service in Rarotonga.

Today's service is being held at the Vodafone Events Centre.

The patron of the Cook Islands Development Agency NZ, former MP Alfred Ngaro, said the circumstances of Dr Williams' passing illustrated his courage in the healthcare sector.

Alfred Ngaro

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"Part of his story for why he went back to the Cook Islands in 1964 as a young general surgeon was to take on the role as superintendent of health and what he faced was a significant end of time where the end of colonial rule under New Zealand of 64 years and then to take over, what he said was the run down was challenging and often the health conditions of his people, it had a dramatic effect, so part of what he was left to be able to work through is to build the health system that would then meet some of the critical needs the patients had as well," Ngaro said.

"Dr Joe Williams could have withdrawn himself from the frontline, he was in his 80s and was part of the vulnerable group for the virus, but he led from the front and showed that we need not be afraid," he added.