Whangarei lost one of its most loyal and hardworking citizens when Dave Culham QSM died at his home in Russell on Tuesday.
The businessman, former district councillor and supporter of community groups and sporting organisations had a huge influence on the lives of hundreds of Whangarei people and on the city itself over the past half-century.
His son Shane yesterday took the coffin containing his 81-year-old father's body to an informal wake at Culham Engineering, the Whangarei business Mr Culham established in 1958.
After the ceremony, former Whangarei mayor Stan Semenoff said Mr Culham's death was "like a kauri tree falling".
"He will be missed. He is among a handful of people who will go down in history for the massive contributions they made to Northland," Mr Semenoff said.
"He provided a heap of pay packets to families and the photos on the walls at Culham Engineering of sports organisations he supported are a mile long."
Mr Culham, who was awarded the Queen's Service Medal last year for his services to business and the community, grew up on a Taipuha dairy farm.
He boarded at Whangarei Boys' High School and went on to complete a five-year boilermaking apprenticeship.
The company he later founded at age 27 trained more than 500 apprentices over the years.
After local-government amalgamation in 1989, Mr Culham was elected to the Whangarei District Council. Today's deputy mayor, Phil Halse, served three terms with him.
"Dave helped overhaul the Whangarei water supply and influenced the development of Wilson's Dam in Bream Bay, which was, until this year, council's largest civil engineering project," Mr Halse said. "He was heavily involved in redevelopment of the Town Basin and he was pivotal in setting up the Whangarei Art Museum."
The council will pay formal tribute to Mr Culham at its final meeting of the year next Wednesday. A private celebration of his life will be held at his Russell home tomorrow and a memorial service will be held at a date to be advised.
He is survived by his wife, Gay, six children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.