Sir Norman Perry died 2 August 2006, having recently celebrated his 92nd birthday.
Sir Norman was one of the most significant and recognised lay leaders in the history of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand . He was deeply involved in the Maori Synod, the New Life Movement 1955-1970, elected third lay Moderator of the General Assembly in 1964, and was a driving force in Mahi Tahi, a trust profiled in the Church.
Norman’s life was given in service of God and people.
As a young man Norman Perry was appointed as secretary and assistant to Sir Apirana Ngata and was a member of the Tribal Work Party with Sir Apirana 1938 - 50. Sir Norman was the only non - Maori in the Maori Battalion in the Second World War. He served as a YMCA officer at the Batallion’s request. In the Italian campaign he was seriously wounded, returning to New Zealand in 1944. He has served in and worked with many Maori organisations. He lived much of his life in Opotiki where he started a garment manufacturing factory to employ and train Maori. He helped establish and continued to be heavily involved in Mahi Tahi, a trust working to reclaim Maori prisoners by linking them to their indigenous traditions, now offering tikanga Maori programmes in prisons.
Sir Norman’s involvement in the world church and world affairs was extensive. He was a member of the International Laity Committee of the World Council of Churches 1955 - 58, leader of an Ecumenical Church Vietnam Peace Mission, in association with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (supported by the Prime Minister and Secretary of Foreign Affairs), initiated peace talks between Buddhists and Christians in North Vietnam, South Vietnam 1965. He was member of a Maori delegation to China in 1984 and trustee of the Rewi Alley Shandan School for some years from 1984.
He served on local and government bodies, being chair of the East Coast Development Council 1970 - 80, a member from 1980 of the Ministerial Committee on Violence 1986 - 87 and a member of the Ro per Commission on Prison Reform. Sir Norman’s knighthood was awarded for services to the community and Maori people in 1977.
Personally Sir Norman was an enthusiastic and humble man. He generated ideas and worked at enlisting people to make them happen.
We give thanks to God for a most remarkable leader in the Presbyterian Church.