The final farewell for slain dad
Decorated in messages of love, it was the simple multicoloured scribbles that stood alone at the head of Michael Valentine's coffin accompanied by the words "To Dad, love Luca", that said the most.
Levin farm worker Michael Les Valentine, 27, died on February 1 outside his rural Levin home from a single stab wound to the chest.
Three men have since been arrested. One, Stoyan Militch, 31, is charged with murder.
Of the two who have appeared in court, neither Militch nor Michael Paul Zimmerman, 29, charged with assault, have entered a plea. The third man will appear in the Levin District Court today.
The Salvation Army community centre in Levin overflowed with people yesterday as Mr Valentine, affectionately known as "Maka", was farewelled by his family and friends, to the tunes of Johnny Cash's I Walk the Line and Prince's Purple Rain.
Minister Llew King described Mr Valentine's death as "crazy and senseless" and a "living nightmare" for his family, who, instead of celebrating Waitangi Day with the rest of the country, were mourning their loss. "Dark days in this town of Levin, and everyone feels it."
But putting aside feelings of anger, questions of why and thoughts of unfairness, he asked them to celebrate Mr Valentine's life.
"Today we don't come as judge and jury about a case that is before the court."
His family said they would remember Mr Valentine as "always laughing, always grinning, always joking".
"He was so funny, he made everyone in the room laugh all the time," Mr Valentine's stepfather, John Trimmer-Arends, said. But there were hard times too.
A poem Mr Valentine wrote while in rehab was read out by a friend, recounting his struggles with addiction.
"You made me feel so bloody good . . . You were a big part of me, now I'm saying goodbye. Goodbye to you for good, I'm starting a new life, the way I should," the poem read.
"He gave us some hard times, but for all the hard times, there were many more good times," Mr Trimmer-Arends said.
He recalled how Mr Valentine, champion of the underdog, would arrive at their home with someone they did not know, explain how they had been having a hard time of it, and ask if they could have a feed and somewhere to sleep.
A letter from Mr Valentine's biological father, Ron, recounted the moment he was told the news of his son's death. "Never did I dream, son, of the devastating message I was about to receive, that you were lost to me forever. Taken from all of us in such a horrific, violent and callous way in one act of total senselessness."
He recalled Mr Valentine's excitement as he told him the news of his impending fatherhood, and again as he introduced his son, Luca, now 4.
"My life will never be the same, until I take my last breath and see you again. I loved you so dearly, if I could have taken your place, I would have."
Mr Valentine's friends recounted a loyal, fun-loving prankster, who advised a friend looking for tips ahead of his first kiss to "go hard", and locked another in the toilet while he blasted an airhose full of talcum powder under the door - payback for a prank played on him earlier.
As Mr Valentine's coffin was carried out of the hall, white doves were released and a haka was performed in his honour.