Thousands gather to farewell Sir Tim

Aviation great Sir Tim Wallis lived his life by the motto, "never let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do", his son Jonathan Wallis said in a eulogy on Saturday.

Sir Tim, a prominent southern businessman and founder of Warbirds over Wanaka, died surrounded by family at his home in the town on October 17. He was 85.

More than 2000 mourners packed the Alpine Helicopters hangar at Wānaka Airport where the service, led by Archdeacon Damon Plimmer, was held from noon.

Large monitors and a number of marquees had also been erected to accommodate the overflow, while many more viewed the two-hour service via a livestream on the Southern Lakes Funerals’ website.

In an emotional and often humorous tribute, Jonathan said his father was a tough individual, but one with an enormous capacity for empathy and humility.

Jonathan said his father’s adage summed him up well, as Sir Tim was always finding ways to overcome adversity in his life.

"And I think he would have comfort knowing that anyone and everyone can push down barriers if they want to, just as he did."

Son Toby Wallis said he was grateful for the "fortunate, adventure-filled" upbringing Sir Tim had offered all his sons.

"We will continue to live our lives with the values, kindness and work ethic you have instilled in us.

"I will never be able to fill your boots but will do my best to make you proud."

Hilary Smith, Sir Tim’s nurse of nine years, paid tribute to an "indestructible, twinkly-eyed friend" who always took the time to ask after the nurses’ families, and used his impeccable sense of direction to help navigate when they drove him around.

"I think I can say on behalf of all the nurses that we’ve never met anyone with the strength and determination to match Tim’s," she said.

Pru, Lady Wallis, watches with twin granddaughters Katrina and Genevieve as the RNZAF Texans...
Pru, Lady Wallis, watches with twin granddaughters Katrina and Genevieve as the RNZAF Texans streak over Sir Tim Wallis’ funeral ceremony at Wanaka Airport on Saturday. The casket with Sir Tim rests in his favourite helicopter for his final flight while actress Rima Te Wiata sings a waiata. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Journalist Melanie Reid spoke of first meeting Sir Tim in the early 1990s, before introducing a screening of Beating the Odds, a segment she made about the entrepreneur for current affairs programme 60 Minutes in 1997.

Flanked by an honour guard of members of the Cardrona Curling Club, of which Sir Tim was patron, the coffin was then carried to his helicopter where people had the opportunity to pay their respects.

Sir Tim’s passion for aviation and deer were honoured in equal measure.

As mourners ate a venison lunch on a warm, sunny day under a blue sky, they watched a flyover by members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, followed by more than 20 helicopters making several circuits of the airfield, some carrying members of Sir Tim’s family.

Sir Tim’s coffin was then carried away by helicopter, which circled the gathering before flying towards Wānaka.

He will be cremated and his ashes later scattered among the mountains of Wānaka.

In closing his eulogy, Jonathan spoke of the time when Sir Tim took his newly acquired spitfire on its first test flight at Whenuapai Air Force Base in Auckland.

"No-one ever quite knew how this one-legged helicopter pilot from southwestern was going to do," he said.

Upon takeoff, the aircraft’s canopy flew back, causing Sir Tim to lose his cap and headset as he took to the skies.

"He soared and he sailed around that airfield blissfully unaware of the chaos ensuing on the ground as air traffic control in Whenuapai and Auckland were trying to no avail to reach him," Jonathan said

"When he did finally decide to come back down to earth, his grin was ear to ear.

"That was fantastic," he said, "but I can’t hear a bloody thing."