The conqueror of Mount Everest has died. The giant of the forest has fallen!
New Zealand mourns the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, arguably the greatest New Zealander in living memory; he died last Friday of a heart attack at Auckland Hospital after a long illness. He was 88 years old.
Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to climb Mount Everest, in 1953, accompanied by Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. He is also a living legend in Nepal where he set up a trust in the 1960's to build hospitals and schools in the kingdom.
He has been described as an inspiration to millions. He was the first New Zealander to appear on New Zealand currency. He will appear on a new $5.00 note here.
He was originally a beekeeper in the North Island and reportedly financed his mountaineering trips from that activity. He started his climbing in NZ of Mount Cook and then overseas to Nepal.
Sir Ed's exploits overshadowed the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second in 1953, and for his comments on radio of " I knocked the bastard off !" He was also well known for his adventuring activities in Antarctica where he transversed the continent in a tractor.
His legacy will live on. His exploits were classic 'boys own' and will continue to inspire generations of New Zealanders to come. He is almost venerated by Nepalese of his generation.
He was also a former NZ High Commissioner to India in the 1980's. He will receive a state funeral normaly reserved for prime ministers who die in office, or former Governors General. He was a New Zealand icon who died in office.
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