An ''absolute icon'' of the north who mentored thousands of young Ngāpuhi and one of Northland's most respected and recognisable kaumātua, Wiremu Wiremu, died suddenly on Thursday 14th May aged 80.
A former soldier and kaihautu (captain) of the great waka Ngātokimatawhaorua, Wiremu — also known affectionately as Matua Wiremu, Uncle Bill and even Handlebars on account of his impressive moustache — was a central figure in almost every event around the Mid North, in particular Waitangi Day waka displays and pōwhiri at the Treaty Grounds and Te Tii Marae.
Ngāti Hine leader Pita Tipene said Wiremu was known throughout the country for his strong involvement in waka and tikanga Māori.
''He was an absolute central character in the landscape of the whole of the north. He's always been central, and he's always been a face and a voice. He was an absolute icon in our community and a strong icon too. He had strong beliefs, he had strong positions, but he contributed so much to our community.''
Wiremu was a kaumātua who rubbed shoulders with other kaumatua, but it was young people who would really miss him.
''He mentored a lot of people. His contribution and his legacy will remain here in the north forever,'' Tipene said.
As kaumātua, Wiremu and his whanau ran Bay of Islands College Marae which annually hosted Rotary International Exchange Students from District 9910. While he was notable for his whiskers and double barrel name (which actually made him stand out in a crowd and attractive), it was the sense of  discipline from his military days that stood out and which he brought to all he did.
The local community turned up to educate the exchange students in Marae culture because he instructed them! When he called all types of people stepped up-from young kids to oldies. Many recall the fearsome Maori warrior who drove from Auckland to teach the students the haka because Wiremu asked him to be there.  For years he welcomed the exchange students on to the Marae; he took them around Waitangi; explained the United Tribes Confederation flag there; took them out into the Bay on the waka; put down the hangi and directed the entertainment. He was in charge. Rotary District Governors showed him great respect just by being present.
He was always open and honest, always conducted himself with integrity, and was always available for advice and guidance.
He was also closely involved with a carving school for young men in Moerewa, the development of Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail, the restoration of Puketi Forest and many other projects.
In 2008 Rotary recognised Wiremu as a Paul Harris Fellow for services to youth and the Rotary Student Exchange program.
His extravagant, almost Victorian whiskers made him instantly recognisable, yet he was humble and avoided the limelight. He disliked photos and interviews, preferring to get on with the mahi at hand.
Haere ra, Wiremu.
He tohu aroha ki a Wiremu Wiremu mai te whanau o Rotary
Sincere aroha to a great friend of Rotary
Whakarongo ake ahau ki te ngunguru ō nga Tai e timu ana ki waho ō Pareikura
Listen to the surging tides on the horizon at Pareikura.
Kua hinga te kākā wahanui, te manu tiutiu kua riro i te ripo ō te Tai.
A great orator has been engulfed by the swirling tides
Haere e Wiremu, kauria atu te moana wairua ō Whitiwhiti-a-Roa
Farewell, Wiremu, traverse the spiritual oceans of Whitiwhiti-a-roa
Au maanu atu koe ki te weherutanga ō nga mano
Remain afloat on the currents til you arrive at the realm of the multitudes
E noho whakataa koe i to wairua i runga ō te One-o-Tarei
Let your spirit rest awhile on the shores of Tarei.
Ka aupiki atu ai koe ki runga i te maunga ō Pekahuhu
Ascend the cobblestoned mountain of Pekahuhu
E tu ki runga i o  tupuna maunga
Stand proudly aloft your ancestral mountains
Ka kohukohu ki te rangi, ka kohukohu, Tangi ana te aweawe
Mists hangs from the heavens, And the spirits weep
Ka kohukohu ki te whenua, ka kohukohu, Tangi ana te kirikiri
Mists hangs over the lands, And the sands resound
Titoko māpuna, i tō rerenga
Propelled by grief at your departure
Haere atu ra ki te wahi i whakairo ai mo te tangata
Farewell to that final place sculpted for us all
Takoto marie ki te Ao mamae kore
Rest in peace in that pain-free world
E te rangatira e Wiremu, nahau ra i tautoko kaha I nga mahi o Rotary
It was you Wiremu who strongly supported Rotary
Nahau ra i whangaia i nga rangatahi o Rotary mai tawahi, mai Aotearoa I nga tikanga hohonu o te Ao Maori
It was you who shared your wisdom with Rotary Exchange students and Rotarians from overseas and from Aotearoa
Na to aroha ki te tangata, ka tautokotia e koe i te kaupapa o Rotary
It was your love for people that you supported Rotary’s activities
Haere ra e te Papa e Wiremu, e moe te moengaroa
Our esteemed Papa, Wiremu, sleep the everlasting sleep
E te whanau pani, mai i o roimata aroha, whakanui ai tatou i nga mahi hiringa o tenei rangatira
To the bereaved whanau, through your tears of aroha, let us celebrate the inspirational legacy of this noble chief
Ka noho tonu a Papa Wiremu ki roto i te Ao o maumahara o Rotary
Papa Wiremu will forever remain within the memories of Rotary
Na Rotary te honore i pa mai te aroha o tenei rangatira ki a matou
Rotary is privileged to have receive such aroha from  our rangatira
Tihe i mauri ora
Tihe i mauri ora