Reunion fulfils Kali's dream
One of the last wishes of slain Mangere policeman Kali Fungavaka will come true on the first anniversary of his death.
The father-of-five died from head injuries while in police custody in Nuku'alofa on August 23 last year.
He had been in Tonga for his grandfather's funeral and was arrested for alleged drunkenness just hours after acting as a pallbearer.
Six people, including five police officers, have been charged with his manslaughter and will appear in court on August 5.
Mr Fungavaka started organising a school reunion for his Mangere College schoolmates just a few weeks before his death, close friend Karl Betham says.
He'd travelled to Brisbane for the 2012 State of Origin rugby league decider and had arranged a catch-up with Mr Betham and other school friends there.
He always kept in touch with his close college mates but wanted to do something on a bigger scale, Mr Betham says.
"Kali was adamant that he wanted to organise a bigger reunion for our year. The talk was for it to take place at Easter 2013."
Mr Betham was in Auckland a month later and they spoke in depth about organising the reunion.
"He was so passionate about making it work and we shared some more good times trying to work it out.
"Sadly, it was the last time I saw Kali."
More than 1000 people turned out for Mr Fungavaka's funeral and among them were hundreds of his old school friends.
They heard about his plans for a reunion and decided to make it happen, schoolmate Chrissy Piakura says.
A committee was formed and planning began. Members set up a Facebook page but had to change tack when more than 500 ex-students from different years joined, committee member Lami Dawson says.
"Everyone wanted to be a part of this but there was no way we could handle doing such an event," he says.
So the reunion was limited strictly to students who went to Mangere College with Mr Fungavaka from 1988 to 1992.
It will take place over two days in August on the anniversary of his death and 25 years since those attending started at the school.
The schoolmates will be welcomed back to Mangere College with a powhiri on August 23 before school leaders split them up for a tour of the site.
They will attend the unveiling of Mr Fungavaka's headstone a day later before a night of reminiscing at the Aviation Country Club in Mangere.
More than 80 past students have signed up from around the world.
But the committee is still looking to hear from any stragglers who haven't heard about the reunion and are keen to attend.
Email Ms Piakura (nee Matara) at mangere collegereunion2013@ hotmail.co.nz.