Feilding High School is in mourning after the death of teacher, hostel manager and sports identity Rick Francis, aged 70.
Francis suffered a heart attack a month ago and was taken to Palmerston North Hospital and then to Wellington. He died on Wednesday evening.
A leading light behind the revival of Feilding High sport, notably rugby, he was coach of the first XV from 2000 and managed the side in recent years.
Feilding High principal Roger Menzies said his absence would leave a big hole at the school.
"He was small in stature but big in heart and he leaves an impressive legacy," Menzies said. "A real character.
"He touched so many lives in his 16 years at the school. He had good old-fashioned values."
Francis helped lift the Feilding rugby teams to be among the best in any of New Zealand's co-ed schools.
He arrived at the school a few months after Menzies started in 1997 and soon made an impact with his forthright presence.
He also coached women's hockey, and in cricket, hockey and rugby was said to have coached 40 championship-winning sides.
He had also worked at Wairarapa College as hostel manager and had been the sports co-ordinator at Nga Tawa Diocesan School, Marton.
A member of the large Francis family from Masterton, his brothers included international referee and radio identity Bill.
Rick and his twin brother, Bob, were the eldest boys in the family of 10. They were born on July 27, 1942.
In 1997, Bill Francis published a biography of the Francis family entitled And Then There Were Ten.
Rick was also a member of the Central Districts Cricket Association management committee from 1988 to 1993.
As a cricketer, Rick represented Wairarapa in the 1960s and CD under-23s in 1962-63 as a left-arm spinner and right-hand batsman.
His funeral will be held at Feilding High School at 1pm on Monday.
- © Fairfax NZ News