Master carver Clifford Hamilton Whiting ONZ and the ashes of his late wife Heather have been buried together by his home people in Te Kaha. Whiting's wife died in 2011 and his whānau say today was the fulfillment of their mutual wish.
Intermittent rain didn't dampen the hearts of Te Whānau a Kaiaio to lay their champion to rest with his beloved.
Kaiaio marae elder, Haki McRoberts said, "We are overjoyed that he has returned to us, knowing how renown he is internationally. Other tribes wanted to keep him, but we went to Russell to fetch him."
Whiting carved a wooden vessel for his wife following her death six years ago, with the intention of being buried together at the same time.
"They were one in the same, inseparable. They were always together in life and today they are together in death," said whānau spokesperson, Rawiri Waititi.
Dr Whiting was a trailblazer who led Māori art forms into the 20th century through his innovative techniques in marae across the country. He also spearheaded projects closer to home.
"For the 100th year anniversary of our Te Whānau ā Apanui school, he carved posts of all our ancestors which stand at the entrance of the school. That's the first thing they see, so they know where they come from who they are in whatever their endeavours around the world," said McRoberts.
"His works will live on throughout the world. He's has completed many projects overseas and across the country," said Waititi.
Recently Whiting returned home to restore the whale boat Haungutu Wera and his ancestral house, Kaiaio.
"He was the example of how to implement innovative ideas. It's good to look at the art forms of our ancestors, but with the creative ideas of the person," said Waititi.
Whiting and his wife are survived by his three sons Gary, Dean, Paul and many mokopuna.