Hawkes Bays great young battler loses the last fight

Award-winning young road builder and promising Napier Technical rugby player Hunter Donghi has died, just three months after finding out at the age of 20 that he had Stage 4 liver cancer.

Having completed his apprenticeship with roading contractor Fulton Hogan last year and been named Connexis Apprentice of the Year in Civil Construction in the Hawke’s Bay East Coast region, he learnt of his condition just before Christmas.

He died at home in Tamatea, Napier, on Monday morning.

More than $70,000 was raised in just two days at the end of the first week of January as friends became aware of his plight. They supported his family with the otherwise unfunded medication it was hoped would save his life or at least prolong it and with treatment already under way the medication started immediately.

Public and business donations, a quiz night and auction at his rugby club and golf were parts of the fundraising effort which overwhelmed mum Kylee Martin and her family, including three other sons who were undergoing genetic scans. Hunter was thought to have had the same mutated cancer gene as father Paul, who died in January 2011, aged 35 and when Hunter was nine.

His funeral will be held at the Napier Technical clubrooms at Whitmore Park on Saturday, starting at 11am, and with the Covid-19 response management restriction of 200 people indoors in place, although the club plans to have space available outdoors, weather permitting.

He is also at home in Selkirk Street, Tamatea, for people to pay their respects between 11am and 7pm each day.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Cranford Hospice.

Messages of condolence flooded the club’s Facebook page on Tuesday, remarking on Hunter Donghi’s commitment to family, work and club. One said his contribution would be remembered “for a lifetime,” while others commented that the support, and that for his plight in January, reflected the regard in which he was placed by family, friends, workmates, clubmates and the wider Hawke’s Bay rugby community.

Fulton Hogan supervisor Doug Cushing, who will speak at the funeral, told Hawke’s Bay Today that Hunter had impressed at work from the moment he joined the company straight out of school, aged about 16.

“He was a very hard worker and an over-achiever…whatever he took on he wanted more, to work even harder,” Cushing said.

“It was a refreshing attitude. It was that competitive nature. It was also pushing him on to do even better.”

He developed a passion for work on the roads and pavements, becoming what Cushing reckons would have been one of the top grader-drivers around. He had a commitment to all his workmates, several recording games and a beer together at touch football a fortnight or so before the Christmas break.

It was then that he started to feel ill, and while workmates understood he still wasn’t at the time aware of what was wrong, Cushing recalled that on the day they broke up for the holidays Hunter was in hospital.

He was unable to return to work, both that and the news this week hitting the crews heavily.

“It’s a tough week for my boys,” he said.

Hunter Donghi, who would have been 21 on June 25, is survived by mother Kylee, stepdad Bryan, and brothers Logan, Jordan and Boston and partner Emma.

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