Vet's grave found after 50 years

Last updated 05:00 17/04/2014
Harry Flynn’s family members
Auckland Council

RESTING PLACE: Harry Flynn’s family members, from left: Granddaughter Bernadette Bodel, daughter Peggy Flynn, granddaughter Helen Hilton and great-granddaughter Antonia Purcell have found closure in finding his grave.

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The previously unmarked grave of a World War I veteran has been tracked down by his family more than 50 years after his death in a psychiatric hospital.

Harry Flynn died in 1963 and was buried in a pauper's grave at Waikumete Cemetery in Auckland - unbeknown to estranged relatives, including his daughter, Peggy Flynn, in Australia.

Peggy Flynn, 87, always wondered where her dad was buried and organised for a headstone to be placed on the grave once she found out where it was.

She flew from Wagga Wagga, Australia, with daughters Bernadette Bodel, 52, Helen Hilton, 60, and granddaughter Antonia Purcell, 9, for an unveiling organised by Auckland District RSAs on Monday.

She says it's nice her father now has a place for loved ones to visit.

"I just can't explain it, I'm so happy.

"I didn't even know he was buried here in the unmarked grave and it means a lot seeing his headstone here and to have family around him.

"He now has a stone saying who he is and we can come back to visit him," she says.

Richard Henry Flynn, known as Harry, was born in Auckland in 1888 and was working as a bushman in Dargaville when he enlisted in 1917.

He set off from Wellington aboard the American ship Willochra in 1918.

He served as a rifleman for about a year before spraining his ankle and suffering dysentery.

He returned home to his wife Grace in 1919 but his family was hit hard during the depression and the couple later separated.

The last two months of Flynn's life were spent in the Kingseat psychiatric hospital.

He died aged 73 without any loved ones by his side.

He was buried as a pauper two days later and no family was contacted.

His granddaughter Bodel says it's a "sad story" and it's nice to finally "put it right".

"He now has a resting place and it might encourage others to do the same thing as there's a lot of unmarked graves out there.

"Maybe there are other stories like this where people think, 'where's my loved one buried?'.

"It's sad that no-one pursued his family.

"But this has brought closure and resolution and now there's something that will always be here," she says. 

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- Western Leader

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