Sam Henare died before he could complete his studies, but his partner of 19 years overcame her grief to continue the course and graduate.
Rebecca Mohi, of Rotorua, not only graduated with a Certificate in Carpentry from UCOL yesterday, but also received a posthumous certificate on Mr Henare's behalf.
Two of her eight children, holding a photograph of their father, accompanied her on the stage at the Regent on Broadway in Palmerston North.
"That was emotional," she said.
"I'm glad that UCOL have acknowledged him. He was like a tutor to the other guys on the course. He was somebody that everyone here looked up to and admired."
Ms Mohi said she and Mr Henare started studying carpentry together with the aim of starting a family business. "It was more to get out of the office monotony. I was in an office doing admin work. But I wanted to do something that involved both Sam and me."
She was the only woman doing the course, but she said she always felt part of the group.
"We soon became the aunty and uncle of the class," she said. "I was like a mother figure."
She said Mr Henare had a stroke at the end of August and died the next month.
Although she briefly considered dropping her studies, she decided to continue.
"For me it was about finishing it for both him and me," she said. "It was just the will to finish it."
Ms Mohi admitted it was not easy. In addition to her studies, she had to consider her eight children, whose ages ranged from 3 to 18.
However, the support the family received from UCOL and Parkland School, which the children attended, was invaluable, she said.
Thanks to that, and the support of others, she continued her course to completion.
"But there were a lot of nights that I didn't go to sleep before midnight."
Standing outside the house her class built as part of the course requirements, she said the structure held many memories for her.
"The kids used to call it Mum and Dad's house," she said as she looked it over.
Since Mr Leade's death had ended the dream of starting a family business, she decided to continue studying in a different field.
She is now at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic, working towards a Diploma in Quantity Surveying.
Yesterday was the second of two days of UCOL graduation ceremonies in Palmerston North.
More than 2000 students were eligible to graduate over the two days, a 20 per cent increase on the past two years.
- Manawatu Standard
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