A warrior of a man got the send-off he deserved as hundreds packed into Palmerston North's All Saints Church to pay their respects to Tony Pierard.
Anthony George Pierard, known by all as Tony, died on December 18 aged 90. He was a World War II fighter pilot renowned for his aggressive instincts in the Solomon Islands and later in life became known as a successful and generous Manawatu businessman.
Of French descent, Pierard attended Palmerston North Boys' High School in the late 1930s and was already well known when he enlisted in the army in the early 1940s.
He started the war as an artilleryman at Waiouru, before transferring to the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Pierard was involved in 172 flying missions and racked up 370 flying hours in the Pacific theatre from late 1942 to the end of the war in 1945. As a fighter pilot, he saw six tours of duty - three with the rugged Kittyhawks and three with the Corsair fighter-bombers that replaced them.
He finished the war as a flight lieutenant with a distinguished flying cross, among other accolades.
Long-time friend Frank Sharp told the crowd of hundreds that Pierard was a warrior of a man.
"Tony looked his enemy in the eye and killed them. He did his duty."
After the war, the Pierards decided to get the family plumbing business going again. Pierard told his father Harold that he would commit a year to work for him.
He told the Manawatu Standard in 1998 that getting Harold Pierard Limited running was a battle in itself.
"The big challenge was to secure licences to import goods. We couldn't get the licences. We were blocked by the established merchants at every turn.
"But we fought them. We were persistent. We were not going to lose."
It was the start of a successful ethos that would bring Pierard the finer things in life, which he enjoyed immensely.
He loved tailored clothing, sampling different types of whisky, Kia Toa rugby and he had a life-long love affair with the Citroen car - he owned 35 in all.
Pierard's daughter, singer Erna Ferry, said her father worked extremely hard to get to where he did.
"He was the only man who could unload a fully laden truck in a three-piece suit without breaking a sweat. There will never be anyone like him and we thought he would outlive us all."
Pierard was well-known in later life for his generous sponsorship of local teams and events, as well as the numerous clubs he was a member and supporter of.
He was particularly fond of anything that brought back memories of his military days and he fought to prevent the closure of the air force museum at Ohakea in 2007.
His service to the community was acknowledged with a civic honour in 1998, an award he was particularly proud of, Sharp said.
Tony Pierard is survived by his daughter Erna, and sons Gerhard and Karl as well as two grandchildren.
- Additional reporting John Myers
- © Fairfax NZ News