Crowd gathers to farewell Sir Paul

The coffin of Sir Paul Holmes is carried out at Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Parnell. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
The coffin of Sir Paul Holmes is carried out at Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Parnell. (Photo by Hannah Johnston/Getty Images)
Long-time friends, colleagues and loved ones have paid their last respects to Sir Paul Holmes at a service in Auckland.

Along with Sir Paul's wife Lady Deborah and children Millie and Reuben, Cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee, Labour leader David Shearer, and Auckland mayor Len Brown were among the huge congregation at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell.

Ann Mellor, a friend of Sir Paul's for 10 years, and the cathedral's dean Jo Kelly-Moore, led the 90-minute service in which loved ones pad tribute to an "extraordinary man".

Long-time friend Peter Beavan, who had been a friend of Sir Paul's since high school said the pair became fast friends: "Paul had a confident grin and lots of energy. He was intelligent but not an academic. He wasn't much good at sport."

The pair studied law at Victoria University before Sir Paul changed subject to English. He later went to radio school and got his first broadcasting job in Christchurch.

Mr Beavan also spoke about the closeness Sir Paul and Millie developed following her public battle with drug addiction.

His friend had been looking forward to enjoying his retirement and the life he had built with Lady Deborah in Hawkes Bay, "but it was not to be".

"The last months were difficult," said Mr Beavan referring to the health problems Sir Paul had suffered.

Brent Harman and Bill Francis worked with Sir Paul at Newstalk ZB, where he quickly became widely respected and had an big impact on the station's success.

"I never had any doubt that I was working with the greatest broadcaster of our time, probably of all time," said Mr Francis.

"He wanted success more than anyone I ever knew. He also worked harder than anyone I ever knew."

He described Sir Paul as storyteller with empathy, a strong sense of history and huge loyalty to the people and organisations he worked for.

Paralympic swimmer Duane Kale said Sir Paul had changed his life by making a documentary about paralympic sport that inspired him to become an athlete.

His work as patron of Paralympics New Zealand raised its profile and put the organisation into a stronger position.

"Today marks the final chapter of a true, great New Zealander."

The 62-year-old was "way too young" to die, said former broadcaster John Hawkesby.

The pair initially kept each other at arm's length, despite a professional respect, but later became friends.

In a light moment, Mr Hawkesby raised laughter from the congregation when he said his friend would have loved walking into a supermarket or dairy this week to see his face on almost every magazine in the stands - apart from one publication dedicated to Victoria Beckham.

He would be delighted to see today's turnout too, said Mr Hawkesby.

"Well, Sir Paul you'd be very pleased to see your pulling power is as good as ever - not just full, overflowing," he said of the 1100-seat capacity cathedral.

And in his final words he farewelled the "cheeky little whitey", a play on Sir Paul's description of former UN boss Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie".

Sir Paul's children Millie and Reuben made the final tributes to Sir Paul.

Millie read a quote by her dad from Holmes at Large a collection of his Herald on Sunday columns. It was written about her battle with P.

"Love always wins. It might take longer than evil and hatred, resentment and envy, but love always wins," it said in part.

The service concluded with a montage of photos to Pale Blue Eyes by Velvet Underground.

Dame Malvina Major sang a solo of 'O Mio Babbino Caro' as a final tribute to Sir Paul.

Sir Paul's children, with close friends Mike Williams, Paul Watkinson and Mr Beavan carried his coffin from the cathedral with Lady Deborah walking behind.

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