New Zealand Pays Homage to Heroic Hillary

First man to conquer Everest laid to rest after state funeral
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2008 10:58 AM CST
The casket of Sir Edmund Hillary is carried from the Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity to St. Mary's Church in preparation for his funeral in Auckland, New Zealand, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008. New Zealanders...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – New Zealand paid tribute to its most famous native son today as throngs lined the streets of Auckland for the state funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealand Herald reports. The prime minister led the tributes. "Sir Ed described himself as a person of modest abilities," said Helen Clark. "In reality he was a colossus, he was our hero."

Thousands more watched on open-air screens around the country as dignitaries, family, mountaineers, and monks bade farewell and praised the life and work of Hillary, the first person to summit Mount Everest. "While we mourn his loss, his spirit will forever live and protect the great mountain and the people he loved so much," said the son of his Sherpa climbing partner.