Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 10-August-2012, Vol 125 No 1359
Thomas Nigel Ellison
18 June 1936 – 13 August 2011
Dr Thomas (Tom) Nigel Ellison was born in Avarua, Rarotonga. He was the second youngest child of 11 of English, Scottish and New Zealand Māori descent (Ngāi Tahu, Te Atiawa, and Ngāti Porou). His father Dr Edward Pōhau Ellison graduated from Otago Medical School as one of the first Māori graduates of Medicine alongside Sir Maui Pōmare, Sir Peter Buck and Dr Tūtere Wī Repa.
The Ellison family has a sterling reputation for sports, and Tom was named after his uncle who was the first All Black captain in 1893.
Tom’s sporting prowess was demonstrated early on, playing representative rugby for Taranaki.
Following a concussion and on advice from his father he swapped to hockey and went on to play representative hockey for Otago, New Zealand Universities, and New Zealand.
He was a natural at golf and a piano man. He and his band of merry music makers used to take a piano round on the back of the trailer to the dance halls getting things hopping.
Dr Tom graduated from Otago University with an MB CHB in 1964 and went on to embody the words distinguished service with the steadfast support of his wife Sybil.
His surgery was always been attached to their home in Raglan and he was assisted by Sybil for over 40 years as a solo rural general practitioner. His son Sean joined them as the practice manager in later years, during which time the practice gained cornerstone accreditation.
At his busiest times, Dr Tom was travelling 100 miles a week to visit the sick. Roads were not what they are today and although he was on call every day and night he always had a smile for you. He was a volunteer doctor with the Fire Service and in 1981 he was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for Fire Service. He assisted in the formation of the local St John’s Ambulance and gave his time to educate their volunteers over the years.
He was the Port Health Officer and assisted in the formation of the Raglan Air Sea Rescue service, which he also participated in. He held high office in local Plunket, the Fishing Club, the Bowling Club, the Raglan Club and the local kindergarten.
The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) awarded the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously in recognition of this on 10 February 2012 at Poihakena marae. His family received the medal and on the same day a Whānau Ora centre was opened at the marae and dedicated to his memory.
This date had been chosen as it was the 50th wedding anniversary of Tom and Sybil. Their story is one of love at first sight—followed by a marriage which was far too short according to Sybil. She was not too impressed to be spending their 50th wedding anniversary without Tom and described meeting him as “the best thing that ever happened to me” and for those who have seen them together it is clear how taken Tom was with her. Tom is also survived by their three sons Sean, Brett and Rhys and five mokopuna [grandchildren].
Tom also received several other awards from St Lazarus of Jerusalem including Knight Commander in 1991.
Te Akoranga a Maui is the Māori Faculty of the RNZCGP and Dr Tom was a kaumātua who sat on their Taumata since its inception, providing wise counsel and inspiration to generations of Māori doctors.
In 2005 he was honoured by Te Ohu Rata o Aotearoa (Te ORA) with the Maaririe Goodall Award which recognises the special contributions made towards improving the health of Māori and Pacific Island peoples. This is known to be the highest accolade that Te ORA bestows on a member of the health workforce.
In 2010 he was the first recipient of the Manu Ao Māori—the Māori leadership award of Te ORA.
Dr Keri Ratima (Māori Director, RNZCGP) wrote this obituary.
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