Cook Islands Mourns Death Of Beloved Justice of the Peace

 John 'JK' Kenning passed away in Auckland

By Matariki Wilson

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Nov. 16, 2016) – He was affectionately known to all simply as “JK,” but the passing of John Kenning on Monday night has left a huge hole in the Cook Islands community.

JK died in New Zealand on Monday night surrounded by his family after a short illness resulting in a flood of memories and stories by many who received the “gentle giant’s” love, care and support.

JK arrived in Rarotonga in Ocotober 1969 at the age of 22 to work for The National Bank branch on Rarotonga, which opened in the same year.

Kenning met his wife Maara on the island of Mangaia and they were married in 1972.

They raised their two daughters Rachel and Vania on Rarotonga.

JK worked for Motor Centre after his stint with The National Bank and became an invaluable contributor to the development of the people of the Cook Islands.

In the sports arena, he is known as the grandfather of Cook Islands rugby league and served as the president for many years until his resignation in the early 2000s.

In his role as president of the Cook Islands Rugby League Association, JK became a mentor and father figure to many of the nation’s aspiring athletes – many of whom have taken to social media portal Facebook to pay respects and share their memories, gratitude and condolences.

Long-time friend Jack Cooper, of Trader Jacks, says JK’s death has left a huge hole in the Cook Islands community.

“He was a great contributor to our nation,” says Cooper, who recalls the special bond he had with his friend starting through a meeting of the Bombay Gin Society of which Cooper was president and JK vice president.

“He knew everyone’s family and took interest in their welfare and wellbeing and we called him ‘Genealogy John’ for that reason.”

JK was appointed as Justice of the Peace of the Cook Islands High Court in 1995 where he was well known for being fair and just. Former Cook Islands Chief Justice Tom Weston says his abiding memory of JK will be the hand-over ceremony in the High Court in September of this year when Weston along with JK and Tangi Taoro JP sat on the bench together with Sir Hugh Williams.

“John Kenning has been the Senior JP for so long that it is impossible to think of the High Court without him being there,” Weston said yesterday.

“He took an active interest in all aspects of the court’s business.  He sat frequently and was not afraid of hard work.  He was the strong leader of the group of remarkable men and women Justices of the Peace who sit as judicial officers in the High Court. JK will be sorely missed.”

Weston extends his condolences to JK’s wife Maara, his family and the people of the Cook Islands who have lost a giant of the island society.

Outside of court, JK was often called on as a master of ceremony for many events from birthdays to public auctions where his humour really shone and for events of national interest.

He was a much loved marriage celebrant and conducted countless happy nuptials – and always with a cheeky grin and comment to break some of the stresses of the day.

For this journalist, JK was a font of knowledge - for as a junior reporter and as the celebrant of my own wedding - he told me with much pride that he never had repeat customers.

Recently I sought his wisdom again in drawing up divorce papers at which point he offered me a discount on my next marriage!

JK will be sorely missed by the people of the Cook Islands.

CI News will be creating a tributes page for the late JK on our website where you can share your memories of the great man.

Cook Islands News
Copyright © 2016 Cook Islands News. All Rights Reserved

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.3 (6 votes)

Add new comment