Veteran nurse remembered for her illustrious community service

Wednesday January 15, 2020 Written by Published in Local
Metuakore (Motu) and Tuapikepike (Mama Tu) Tutakiao with their Queen’s Honours Award British Empire Medals awarded in January 2005. 20011406. Metuakore (Motu) and Tuapikepike (Mama Tu) Tutakiao with their Queen’s Honours Award British Empire Medals awarded in January 2005. 20011406.

The late Mama Tu was the first local trained nurse to serve as sister in charge at Rarotonga Hospital.

Ninety-two-year old Tuapikepike Tutakiao BEM, who served in the local health sector for 40 years, will be remembered for her dedicated service to the Cook Islands community.

Known as Mama Tu, the Matavera resident passed away peacefully on January 2, seven days shy of her 93rd birthday.

The recipient of the Queen’s Honours Award British Empire Medal (BEM) for her distinguished service to the community as well as her contribution to nursing, was born in 1927 on the island of Mangaia. She attended Oneroa Primary School from 1931 to 1942. 

In 1943, Mama Tu moved to Rarotonga and started schooling at Ngatangiia Primary before attending Tereora College from 1944 to 1945. 

After completing her secondary school education in Rarotonga, she returned to her home island of Mangaia and started her career in nursing at the Mangaia Hospital from 1946 to 1949.

A year later she returned to Rarotonga and after serving for two years, she graduated to staff nurse.

In 1953, Mama Tu returned to Mangaia before heading to Fiji the following year to study post graduate course in nursing for nine months.

From 1964 to 1986, she was sister in charge for the outpatient division at Rarotonga Hospital – the first local trained nurse appointed to this post. She served in the position until her retirement in 1986.

After her retirement, Mama Tu continued to contribute her skills to public health service. From 1989 to 1994, she was re-employed on night shift at the Tupapa Outpatient.

Apart from nursing, she was involved in many organisations, dedicating her time and effort to help the community in whatever ways possible.

From 1989 to 1994, Mama Tu was a member of the Leases Approval Committee; president Rangiatea Vainetini for eight years; president Cook Islands Nurses Association; founding member for National Council of Women and member of the Cook Islands Christian Church (London Missionary Society).

In 1967 she was ordained as assistant deacon along with her husband Metuakore Kora – Papa Motu Kora (Mokare Mataiapo) – of the Matavera Cook Islands Christian Church. She was also a strong supporter of her husband’s tenure as Mokare Mataiapo of Rangiatea, Vaka Takitumu.

From 1999 until her passing, they served as Church Elders. They vacated their position as deacons to allow their daughter Tauepa and her husband Vaitoti Tupa, the MP for Matavera, to continue in the position.

Mama Tu’s granddaughter Maneuneu Te Kare O Te Moana Mere a Pee Tutakiao Tupa, said: “Mama has achieved so much in her life, we will miss her talents and skills. We miss you Mama, love you endlessly, God be with us all.”

  • Melina Etches

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