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Funeral plans for Kiwi icon

Published: 10:14AM Monday January 14, 2008 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

More details are emerging about the State funeral for Sir Edmund Hillary.

The iconic New Zealander, who was 88, died in Auckland Hospital on January 11 after battling ill health. 
Hillary's funeral will take place at Auckland's Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell on Tuesday January 22, with the public having their chance to say goodbye the day before when he will lie in state. 
Two Anglican deans from different parts of New Zealand will lead the services.

The Dean of Auckland, Ross Bay, will lead Sir Edmund's State funeral service, with the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, playing a special role.

Like so many others in the past few days, Peter Beck's first port of call in Auckland was the Hillary family home and a meeting with Lady Hillary.

"She's doing fine," said Beck after his talk with Lady Hillary.

Beck's friendship with Sir Ed was cemented when the pair travelled to Antarctica in 2004 for the 25th anniversary of the Erebus disaster.

"That was an extraordinary experience, hugely emotional, particularly of course for Ed," says Beck.

Beck has been asked to officiate at the State funeral.

"Lady Hillary rang me early in the new year to ask. She was saying that he wasn't well and at some stage he was going to die, obviously, and would I take the funeral. And I was bowled over," he says.

Late on Monday afternoon, he met with his Auckland counterpart at St Mary's church to discuss his role.

"Most of all I'm here to be with the family and the last part of the service at the crematorium will be in my hands," says Beck.

In stark contrast to the proposed State funeral was a simple service in Antarctica on Sunday afternoon. Around 70 people filled the benches of the Chapel of the Snows at the American-operated McMurdo Station.

Huge logistics

Prime Minister Helen Clark says a huge amount of work is underway organising Sir Ed's funeral.

Clark says his family is very much involved, working out who needs to be invited and what Sir Ed's favourite music was.

She says planning for the event also involves officials from Internal Affairs, the military and police.

One issue is traffic management as no one knows just how many people will turn out on the day. Clark says given the universal outpouring of love, respect and admiration for Sir Ed, they have to anticipate a huge amount of public interest.

Books of condolence

Meanwhile, well-wishers have can pay their respects to Sir Ed and his family in books of condolence set up around the country.

For Wellingtonians, two books have been opened at parliament and a third at the town hall.

In Christchurch's museum, a condolence book has been placed next to Sir Ed's famous striped hat and the climbing boots he wore to the top of  Mt Everest.

"He's given a vast amount of material to the people of Canterbury really to acknowledge his roots here in learning mountaineering in our Canterbury mountains," says one man.

The number of signatures already runs into the hundreds.

And in Auckland at the Town Hall, Mayor John Banks was first to make his mark late on Monday afternoon.

"Matthew's words from scripture, not mine. 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant'," says Banks, explaining his entry in the condolence book.