Lomu remembered at his South Auckland church
Jonah Lomu has been remembered as an inspiration and an ambassador for rugby by his south Auckland community, at his first public memorial on Sunday night.
Jonah Lomu has been remembered as an inspiration and an ambassador for rugby by his south Auckland community, at his first public memorial last night.
More than 600 people crowded into the church last night where he grew up - they cried, laughed, and mourned the former All Black, who died suddenly last week.
Kim Baker Wilson was there.
This was Jonah Lomu's church as a boy - and these people came together to remember the man who used to take sit in these seats. People like Shania Taufa, who's seventeen, and whose father was a friend of Jonah Lomu's at school.
SHANIA TAUFA: I think Jonah Lomu was one of ten greates inspirations we have ever had, especially in New Zealand.for our young youth.
Inside, 40 candles were lit for each of Lomu's 40 years. His mother Hepi was in tears, but comforted by hugs and hands offering support. This wasn't just a service for the Tongan community - many nationalities were represented here. There was Rosie Blake, from the Cook Islands Consul General...
ROSIE BLAKE: His humbleness and genuine warmth matched his skill and power, made him our own Polynesian warrior.
Fala Haurangi, a Tuvalu community leader:
FALA HAURANGI: He's no longer just our son, he belongs to everybody else all over the world. So tonight I just want to acknowledge God tonight for blessing us with such a talented and skilled son like Jonah Lomu. I think he inspired everybody here.
and Vijendra Prasad, a leader from the Fijian Indian community.
VIJENDRA PRASAD: You know that Indians don't play rugby, they hardly touch a rugby ball. But we are inspired by the way he played, you know the try he made after that three tackles, that Indians got behind rugby and got interested in watching rugby and learn about it.
The local MP, Su'a William Sio, said Lomu was a son of this church, and this community, before he became a global rugby star.
SU'A WILLIAM SIO: Wherever Jonah would have travelled to and played, we would have felt we would have run on the field with him. I think when he smashed through those British tackles we were smashing through with him as well, and when he scored the tries, we all felt we were scoring the tries.
It was Salote Heleta-Lilo who organised this gathering...
SALOTE HELETA-LILO: We are here to celebrate a God-gifted son of the Pacific. You have empowered a sense of security and belonging and you have taught our children to dream for their future and you believed the non-achievable indeed.
Lomu's childhood friend, Sinipata Kaufononga, told of the time young relatives told him about their visit to Madame Tussaud's wax museum
SINIPATA KAUFONONGA: Inside this museum, Mandela, Gandhi...all thes great people and they said, guess what, Jonah Lomu is in there. He is the only Pacific Islander in there. At that point I was so proud, so proud of what he had done.
There's still a second, and much larger public memorial to be held that's still being organised.
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