National | New Zealand Defence Force

Sergeant George Nepia returns to Rangitukia

Sergeant George Nepia was one of 27 personnel repatriated from Malaysia and Singapore and today family escorted his remains back to Rangitukia.

After 64 years Sergeant George Nepia is on his way home.

Niece Huinga Nepia says, "It would mean so much to my grandmother Huinga, it started from her.  The cry in her heart is in me now and for a mother to lose her son and not have him buried by her- this means so much to us."

Nepia died age 24 in an accident while serving overseas.  His family still struggle with his loss, knowing he was a young man full of potential.

Huinga says, “He might have been the All Black in our whānau.  He was a very good rugby player, he was First XV at Gisborne Boys' High school.  At 16 he was also head boy of Gisborne Boys' High and he was also dux.

Nephew Reverend Brent Swann says, "These are the real rangatira who were cut down.  It's a huge loss, not just for our family but for the whole of Ngāti Porou."

A special service was held at Tikitiki Church, where Nepia's parents were the first couple to be married, and where his tupuna also lost to war, are commemorated in a stained glass window.

"It's a memorial to those soldiers who passed away in World War One and World War Two and Dee-Dup Sergeant George Nepia is also part of that," says Swann.

He then arrives at Hinepare Marae where he will spend the night before a final service.

Huinga says “this means so much to me and my whanau.”

George Nepia will finally be laid to rest at Okaroro Cemetery tomorrow.