Last Te Whānau-a-Apanui 28th Māori Battalion veteran passes away

By Mānia Clarke

Hundreds of mourners are expected to pay their final respects to the last Te Whānau a Apanui 28th Māori Battalion, Company C veteran, William Hei (Pom) Walker.

The 94-year-old passed away Monday morning  (17th July) at Whakatāne hospital, surrounded by whānau. He had contracted a flu bug a week and a half ago.

Grand daughter, Tere Ashby told Te Kāea the whānau and tribe are devastated at Papa Pom’s passing.

Walker was raised in Te Kaha by his grandfather, who owned the original JW Walker store. At 15-years-old he was enlisted into the army.

“Like many young locals, he saw it as an opportunity to see the world,” said Ashby.

Walker trained with Company C at Northland’s Ohaeawai training camp for three years, before heading overseas to fight in World War Two.

He returned to Te Kaha from the war in his twenties and became a fisherman before settling to farm whānau land.

Although proficient in both Māori and English, he preferred working in the marae kitchen. He supplied local marae with beef and pigs, vegetables he grew and seafood.

He’s the second prominent Te Kaha kaumātua to die this week. Master Carver 81-year-old Cliff Whiting died on Sunday morning.

He and his late wife Rīpeka are survived by their two daughters and many mokopuna.

Walker's burial service will be held today at 11am at Te Ehutu marae.