Sir Toby Curtis a.k.a Sir Noble Thomson Curtis, a renowned kamātua and educator, died on Wednesday. He was 82 years old. Read on to know what happened to Sir Toby Curtis and what was the cause of his death.
He was a teacher, an ardent supporter of Māori, the creator of several Māori broadcasting ventures, and the founder of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust. He was widely known around the world, especially in New Zealand.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Opposition leader Christopher Luxon both paid tribute to the gone educationalist. The fallen leader worked his whole life to improve the lives of people across Aotearoa.
How did Sir Toby Curtis die?
Sir Nopera Tamihana Curtis (popularly known as Toby Curtis), Te Arawa’s mightiest totara, passed away on Wednesday, August 17, 2022, at his Lake Rotoiti home. He was 82 years old. The educationalist died peacefully surrounded by whānau.
An exact cause of Sir Toby Curtis’ death wasn’t revealed at the time of writing. However, Piki Thomas, who is a member on the organizing team of Sir Toby’s Tangihanga revealed that he had been unwell for a while.
He stated that his death was a tragedy for Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Rongomai and Te Arawa whānau. Piki went on to say that it was devastating to lose “a very special man” who “enabled access into the halls of power.”
Sir Toby Curtis’ Funeral (Tangihanga Arrangements)
Whānau confirmed in a statement on Wednesday morning that Sir Toby will remain at his home with immediate whānau. He’ll be taken to his marae, Rakeiao, at Lake Rotoiti at 10 AM on Friday, August 19, 2022.
From that time, the Curtis whānau will be welcoming all those who wished to honour the life of their rangatira at Rakeiao with the burial date to be advised.
In an effort to ensure as many people as possible could pay their respects, you are advised to contact Dennis Curtis at 021 281 6016, or Piki Thomas at 027 244 8784, who will facilitate each rōpū.
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“We anticipate a large gathering at Rakeiao and will close Curtis Rd and run shuttle services between the dedicated carparking area and marae. Local Māori wardens will assist with directions, but please allow extra time for parking and transport to the marae,” the statement states.
“Cell phone coverage is limited at the marae, but the tangi and whai kōrero will be livestreamed with details to come for those who are unable to be with us kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face).
“To help keep everyone safe (especially our vulnerable koeke), please wear face masks, use the hand sanitiser provided and stay home to watch the livestream if you are māuiui.”
Who was Sir Toby Curtis?
Sir Toby Curtis (Sir Noble Thomson Curtis KNZM) was a New Zealand educator and Māori leader born on November 13, 1939. He was educated at St. Michael’s College in Rotorua, and St Peter’s Maori College in Auckland.
He started his career as a primary school teacher and worked with intellectually disabled children. Sir Toby went on to become the principal of the Hato Petera College and vice-principal of Auckland Teachers’ College.
In the 1990s, he was the Auckland Collge of Education’s Primary Teacher Education director, faculty dean of the Auckland Institute of Technology, and was appointed deputy vice-chancellor at the same institue in 2000.
He held a number of leadership roles throughout his career. Most of them have been in the education and broadcasting sectors. He was heavily involved in Māori broadcasting. In 1997, he was appointed chairman of Te Māngai Pāho, the Māori Broadcasting Agency.
He also played representative of rugby union for Counties and Bay of Plenty. In the late 1980s, Sir Toby chaired a Māori broadcasting advisory committee that led to the establishment of Radio Aotearoa, iwi radio stations and Māori Television.
Sir Toby Curtis was also the chairperson of Te Arawa Lakes Trust for 16 years. He resigned earlier this year, in April, as he believed he had fulfilled most of the things he wanted to. The legendary man challenged the status quo for the betterment of Māori.
Sir Toby Curtis was Married to Mary Agnes Sharry
Sir Toby Curtis married Mary Agnes Sharry in 1966. The couple went on to have four children. Sir Toby was also the uncle of popular actor Cliff Curtis.
In 2014, Sir Toby was appointed a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to Māori education.
Tributes for the respected kaumātua and leader are coming from around New Zealand, most of them highlighting his contributions to education, Māori, and to Rotorua. Everyone has highly praiseworthy words for the noble man.
The New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke to media in Auckland about Sir Toby’s passing on Wednesday. She said she was saddened to hear about Taa Toby’s passing.
“He was a huge advocate for his people and a huge believer in the power of the education system when we get it right,” she said. She went on to say that many people would have seen the impact he had across the country, over many years of hard work.
Te Arawa Lakes Trust chief executive Karen Vercoe stated Taa Toby was an incredible leader who was passionate about the lakes and the young people of Rotorua.
“It’s hard to put in words the mana of a person who has achieved so much,” he said. He added that his achievments included his work in academia on the impacts of colonialism. “We will miss him,” he said while concluding his statement.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick also shared heartfelt words on Taa Toby’s death. “He was a great leader and a dear friend and I was privileged to have had the opportunity to spend time with him at his home during the past few weeks,” she said.
“He was also a man with a deep love for his whānau, his whenua, his people and our country,” she added. Chadwick also revealed that Sir Toby supported her a lot when she an MP and wise counsel in her role as mayor.
Our deepest condolences go out to Sir Toby’s family, friends, and loved ones. May God let the departed soul rest in peace.