Thousands mourn Everest conqueror Hillary


AUCKLAND (AFP) — Thousands of mourners gathered in Auckland on Tuesday to bid farewell to New Zealand’s national hero Edmund Hillary, the first man to stand atop Mount Everest, at a rare state funeral. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark was among about 600 guests attending the funeral in St Mary’s church, along with Hillary’s widow June and other family members.

Clark told the mourners that Hillary, who became known in New Zealand simply as Sir Ed following his 1953 knighthood, was “the most famous New Zealander of our times”.

“Sir Ed described himself as a person of modest abilities. In reality he was a colossus, he was our hero,” Clark said.

“How privileged we were to have that living legend with us for 88 years.”

High-level representatives from Australia, Britain, Canada, India, Ireland and the United States also attended the funeral.

Hundreds more gathered in the adjacent Holy Trinity Cathedral, where Hillary’s body lay in state on Monday, while thousands watched on huge screens in several parts of the city and around the country.

Hillary, who died on January 11 of a heart attack aged 88, reached the 8,848-metre (29,028-foot) summit with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953.

Norbu Tenzing Norgay, the eldest son of Hillary’s companion on Everest, was to address mourners and four surviving members of the British-led expedition also attended the funeral.

After making history on Everest, and more adventures in the Himalayas and Antarctica, Hillary devoted much of the rest of his life to building schools and hospitals in Nepal.

Clark described Hillary’s work with his Himalayan Foundation in Nepal as his living legacy.
She said the lanky former beekeeper was admired for his achievements and the respect he was held in around the world.

“But above all we loved Sir Ed for what he represented, a determination to succeed against the odds, humility and an innate sense of fair play and a tremendous sense of service to the community at home and abroad.”

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