Almost every day since the death of his wife of 56 years, Alex Tairoa has driven to her grave to spend time with his special lady.
Yesterday, while the 77-year-old great-grandfather chatted to "my Margaret", filling her in on his news, someone crept up and stole his car.
"It was only about 20 metres away," he said. "I tried to run after it yelling ‘Hey', but I knew it wouldn't stop them. It's pretty hard to believe that someone would do that at a cemetery."
Mr Tairoa was at Masterton's Riverside cemetery at 9am yesterday when his green Mazda was taken.
He had thought it safe to leave the keys in the ignition.
The car is yet to be recovered. The police have called the theft "despicable".
Mr Tairoa said his wife Margaret died in February after a long battle with emphysema.
"We hardly ever left one another when we were together. She went where I went - she was always with me."
The pair married in 1956 - and had six children - and he thought about her constantly. "Sometimes I'm at home and think about her and then I'll go up and get her photos," he said.
"But then I think that's not enough, and I'll go down to the cemetery for about half an hour.
"I just go and stand there and talk, and tell her what's happened at home."
The former slaughterman will now have to rely on relatives to take him to the cemetery, as he is not up to walking the distance.
"I'm not well myself. I've got a bit of everything really, from diabetes to asthma - you name it."
He was not expecting to see the car again, he said.
"I'm not holding my breath. Cars that get pinched from around here normally either get torched or they're just gone."
Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said the theft was "despicable".
"There's things like stealing from a hospice charity box and that sort of thing, but this is pretty out there.
"We're appalled that someone could be so low as to steal a vehicle from someone who's so obviously visiting a gravesite."
Police were appealing for any information about the missing vehicle or the person responsible for the theft, she said.
The vehicle is described as a green mid-1990s Mazda, registration ARD406.
- The Dominion Post