Grave plaques replaced

DAMAGE DONE: Fionna Gotts sits by the damaged grave of her friend Lola Lord. The brass plaque was stolen off it but is set to be replaced.
DAMAGE DONE: Fionna Gotts sits by the damaged grave of her friend Lola Lord. The brass plaque was stolen off it but is set to be replaced.

Lola Lord always took great pride tending her family plot at Waikumete Cemetery.

She looked after it for years even though her family couldn't afford to mark it with a tombstone.

Miss Lord died in 2009 at the age of 87 and her friends Fionna Gotts and Frieda Clark took it upon themselves to make sure her resting place in the plot was marked with a plaque.

Their dedication to the site made the desecration of the grave last October even more devastating.

But 10 months on Miss Lord's grave will be restored thanks to a combined effort by the Avondale police and West Auckland businesses.

The brass plaque on Miss Lord's family grave was one of 13 smashed and stolen last year.

A total of 50 kilograms of brass was taken. There was an attempt to sell it to a scrap metal dealer who tipped off police.

Kieron Richard Officer, 49, of New Lynn, pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court last month to receiving and selling the stolen plaques. He was sentenced to one year of supervision and five months of community detention.

Police also have warrants to arrest Neil Joseph Anderson, 46.

The total damage to the graves was costed at just under $20,000 and the estimated value of the scrap when sold was $272.

Avondale constable Jodi Browne says she and constable Adrian Heffernan got in contact with three businesses to help replace the plaques for the affected families and friends at no cost.

All three answered the call. Glucina Alloys melted the broken plaques into certified alloy. Skellerns Metal moulded the metal into small crosses and Parkinson & Bouskill supplied granite gravestones to the families that wanted replacements.

Glucina Alloys director Ian Paine says it was a co-operative effort for the community.

"It's a way for us to give back.

"Having met some of the families it's nice to be able to bring a little bit of happiness in a small way."

Parkinson & Bouskill director Peter Gibson says he feels for the people affected by the theft.

"It's a little bit gut-wrenching when people's plaques are removed."

Miss Browne says the ages of the people in the graves ranged from 12 days old to in their 80s.

The most recent burial was in 2004 and the oldest was in the 1930s.

Ms Gotts is rapt with what the police and businesses have achieved.

"They have been so good. What they've done is just spectacular. A lot of these people are quite elderly and wouldn't have the means or the impetus to replace the damage," Ms Gotts says.

A ceremony will be held at the Chapel of Faith in the Oaks at Waikumete Cemetery to present the new plaques at 10am on August 26.

Western Leader