Celebrating the life of Pate Karora’ava Ila’ava
(July 1, 1936 – Aug 19, 2021)
God loves a cheerful giver
– Mark 12: 41 – 44
By VELEKIRI PATEKALANI ILA’AVA
Pate (Pat) Karora’ava Ila’ava was born to Ila’ava Karora’ava and Ilaveu Leva on July 1, 1936. He was the fourth child and oldest son in a family of seven sisters and one brother.
Ila’ava started his formal education attending the elementary school that was run by the London Missionary Society (LMS). Their classroom was under the coconut trees at Kapari and their exercise books was the grey sand on the beach.
After elementary school, he was enrolled at the Idubada Technical College in Port Moresby, for training as a motor mechanic. He did not like the motor mechanic course and so went to Sogeri High School where he was granted enrolment after passing the entry level test with flying colours.
Ila’ava attended Sogeri High School from 1955 to 1958 with school mates like late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare (East Sepik), late Sir Ebia Olewale (Western), late Sir Albert Maori Kiki (Gulf) and other great and champion pioneers that laid the foundation for what would be the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, a country he loved dearly and passionately.
Pat was a bright student and was particularly good at mathematics attaining dux awards in two of the three years he was at Sogeri High School. He also embraced Shakespeare dearly and loved the segment on the Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In his last few years of his life, he would lecture to youths from Viriolo village on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream with quotes like “The course of true love never did run smooth”. He graduated with a “Queensland Junior High School certificate” with high honours.
On Dec 31, 1958, Pat Ila’ava married the love of his life, Earau Velekiri. This marked the start of their own Romeo and Juliette love affair that lasted 62 years until his death. The couple had six children: sons Dr Vele, late Rev Alu, Ila’ava and Karo, and two daughters Geno and Vagi. At the time of his passing on Thursday, Aug 19, 2021, he was 85 years old. He is survived by his beloved wife, Earau, five children, 22 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren, one sister and one brother.
Teacher and school inspector
Pat always wanted to be a teacher and so after graduating from Sogeri High School, he enrolled at the Port Moresby Teachers College. His dream to become a teacher was temporarily stalled for family reasons. So he withdrew from teacher training and took up a job as a trainee journalist with the newly established Department of Information and Extension Services (DIES). It was in this department that he met a Mr Newbie from Australia who was head of the department.
Newbie mentored, greatly influenced and shaped his views on government and world issues. In fact, Newbie was so impressed with Pat that he allowed Pat to move in and live with him at the then expatriate compound at Konedobu.
After the short stint with the DIES in 1959, Pat re-enrolled at the Port Moresby Teacher’s College and completed his teacher training course. It was here that he met other great d pioneers like the late Steven Tago from Northern, and the late Grand Chief Sir Michael Ogio from Bougaiville. After graduating from Port Moresby Teachers College, Pat was posted to Madang from 1965 to 1967 as a deputy principal at Miak Primary School on Karkar Island and later as principal at Umboldi Primary School.
After Madang, Pat and his young family were transferred to East New Britain where he was to be the first national principal of the Golpak Memorial Primary School in Pomio District in 1968. As a teacher, Pat voluntarily gave up his free and family time to run after school hours adult literacy and numeracy classes for parents of the primary school students. These classes were greatly appreciated by the local people from surrounding villages and were very well attended.
After spending six months at Golpak Memorial Primary School, Pat and his family were transferred to the Western Highlands to localise a school inspector position held by an Australian.
At the time, Western Highlands included what is now the Enga and Jiwaka provinces. After two and a half years in Western Highlands, Pat was posted to the Southern Highlands to localise yet another school inspector position. Southern Highlands then included what is now Hela province.
In 1972, Pat was promoted to the rank of superintendent in the national education department headquarters in Port Moresby working with the late Sir Alkan Tololo (East New Britain), late Sir Kwamala Kalo (Central) and Geno Roakeina (Central), among others.
Before Independence in 1975, Pat was given opportunities to work and study overseas in Australia, Japan, and Tanzania in Africa. On the Japan programme, he met and became good friends with another great pioneer and champion in the then Fr John Momis from Bougainville. After his term in the education space, Pat was appointed secretary-general of Red Cross in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in 1986, again localising the position by replacing an expatriate. In this job, he travelled extensively throughout Papua New Guinea, the Pacific, Asia and Europe.
Pat Ila’ava was one of two associate commissioners under Gordon Mamis from Bougainville as the Teaching Service Commissioner from 1989 to 1990. The other two associate commissioners were the late Toby Daviesand the late Tony Amos, both `from Milne Bay. It was at the Teaching Service Commission that he struck up a special friendship with Toby Davies and the late Kini Veoli from Karawa village in Hood Lagoon who together formed their own “Fish Club”.
In this club, Pat was Fish 1, Toby Davies Fish 2 and Kini Veoli Fish 3. The three quickly developed a reputation for being champion fisherman among their peers and colleagues.
One milestone that stands out among many is when they went out fishing one night in the reefs off Ela Beach and caught 30 Maori Ross, a giant parrot fish species. Each fish was over 1.5m long and since they could not take everything home, the three fisherman shared most of them with their relatives and friends living at Koki Point.
Sadly for Pat (Fish1), Fish 2 and Fish 3 passed on before him and so he was left with the heart broken task of bidding them farewell.
Early this year, Pat was diagnosed with TB of the abdomen. He was treated at the Port Moresby General Hospital and was discharged. He went home and was on treatment for some eight months.
Like many of his colleagues in their time, Pat Ila’ava was a champion and pioneer leader who dedicated his life for service in his chosen passion field of education.
He was a humble, dedicated and a high, silent achiever. Apart from work, Pat loved cricket, canoe racing and God.
As a cricketer, he was a first class batsman and many bowlers testified to his quality and tenacity. As a canoe racing fanatic, like the true leader he was, he mobilised the canoe racing fraternity in Port Moresby to start the Central Canoe Racing Association. Naturally, he was elected the inaugural president of the association.
Committed to church work
Outside of work and sports, Pat was a dedicated and committed Christian serving God in many leadership roles in Mt Hagen, Mendi, Port Moresby and in his local Viriolo United Church. For instance he co-founded the Kapari-Viriolo-Lalaura Fellowship group in Port Moresby with relatives like Sir Puka Temu, Judge Ravu Auka and others. This fellowship group is still around to this day and has grown bigger.
The family in celebrating his life and farewelling him chose the theme: “God loves a cheerful giver”. This theme expresses the quality, the heart, soul and spirit of Pat Karora’ava Ila’ava.
As a loving, honourable and dear father and grandfather, he kept his promise to his grandchildren and died at 5.30pm on Thursday, Aug 19, only after they had finished school and returned home to say their last goodbyes.
Words can never fully express the level of love, admiration and respect he earned, firstly from his wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and from the rest of his extended family, colleagues and friends throughout PNG and internationally.
Dear dad and granddad, your family from Viriolo, Lalaura, Kapari, Alumni, Keapara and all over PNG will miss you greatly. Although you are gone in flesh, we will continue to promote your legacy and spirit. Ama mai raramani (our beloved and dear Dad). To us you were and will always be our very own grand chief and hero – second to none!
Rest in eternal peace till we meet again.
Emau Ama (Goodbye Dad).
-From loving wife Earau, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, family, friends and colleagues.