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AUCKLAND, New Zealand (NiuFM, July 24) – Preparations for a state funeral are underway for one of the Cook Islands most famous prime ministers and leaders, Sir Tom Davis.

Papa Tom, as he was widely known, died early this morning in Rarotonga at the age of 90.

He was a graduate of Otago University in 1945, and was the first Cook Island person to qualify as a doctor in New Zealand.

Pa Te Ariki Upuko Tini Arikinui told Pacific Radio News Papa Tom will be remembered not only as a great leader but a man of for his many trades, especially for his work at NASA in the US.(listen)

Papa Tom was also named the "Pacific Person of the Century" in 2000.

Trevor Pitt, the executive advisor to Prime Minister Jim Marurai, says his passing has come as a shock to the Cook Island community. (listen)

Papa Tom was a real 'renaissance-man' spending time as a researcher at Harvard and working on the NASA space-program amongst other things.

But it was as a politician he made his mark worldwide; forming the Cook Islands Democratic Party in 1971 and serving as Prime Minister from 1978 to 1987.

Fellow politician, NZ First MP, Pita Paraone remembers Poppa Tom's many interests but most of all his work for the community. (listen)

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