Former Cook Islands Chief Expires from virus in New Zealand

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Joe Williams might have been 85 years old, however, if the coronavirus struck this season, the Auckland physician worked extra hard to frighten his Pacific Island sufferers of its dangers. His friend suggested that he take a holiday, but Williams was having none of it.

“That is the problem with young folks — they are always considering off time,” Williams jokingly told Dr. Api Talemaitoga, the 60-year-old remembered. “I will be all right, do not be concerned about me”

However, Williams ended up grabbing the virus and died from it Friday night, family and friends said.

Williams was born in the Cook Islands and divide his time living there and also in New Zealand.

He had been known by the World Health Organization because of his job from the Cook Islands helping stamp out the tropical disease lymphatic filariasis, popularly called elephantiasis.

Back in Auckland, he began a practice that grew to serve over 15,000 patients, a lot of these Pacific Islanders who traveled from all around to visit him.

Williams became the patron of the Pasifika Medical Association, a team that could have annual conferences either in New Zealand or at the islands and could frequently attract about 300 individuals.

“I have this vision of him breakfast and dinner walking about talking to everyone,” Talemaitoga explained. “He was especially interested in the younger Pasifika physicians coming through, discovering that they were and exactly what they had been specializing in. He was a genuine fatherly figure”

He adored speaking so much that a projected five-minute speech would occasionally take one hour. Nephew Kiki Maoate, a physician and president of the Pasifika Medical Association, stated he finally gave up trying to receive off his uncle the point.

“And everything else that he did, he was a fantastic orator,” Maoate explained. “He confessed individuals and got into his narrative.”

Williams afterward served various political purposes in the Cooks, such as prime minister for many weeks in 1999.

“It was a true rock-and-roll period in Cook Island politics,” with frequent direction changes, Maoate explained.

Last month, Auckland had its initial community transmission of this coronavirus in over three months, and it disperses in the Pacific Island community.

Maoate stated he predicted his uncle a few days before he had been admitted to the hospital and thought he seemed very tired. He explained Williams appeared to be making progress in combating the disease but it took him.

“As a physician, a health researcher and as a politician, Dr. Williams made a significant mark on the communities that he served,” Peters explained. “He’ll be greatly missed in New Zealand and the Cook Islands.”

Williams is survived by his wife, Jill; kids Richard, Karina, Joanna, and Jamie; along with lots of grandchildren.