Penny reunites family members

PRETTY PENNY: Beverley Gurdler shows the Dead Man’s Penny to her great niece Tyla Henry, 9.
PRETTY PENNY: Beverley Gurdler shows the Dead Man’s Penny to her great niece Tyla Henry, 9.

The lucky spotting of a piece of war memorabilia among earthquake rubble has reunited a dead soldier's family after more than 50 years.

The Press reported last week that a memorial plaque from World War I was spotted among mountains of quake rubble at Burwood Resource Recovery Park.

Other than the name Ernest Wright etched into the Next of Kin Memorial Plaque there were no other clues as to its story.

FAMILY HISTORY: Ernest Wright, his wife Gladys and their two children Ella and Gladys as photographed before Ernest went to battle in World War I.
FAMILY HISTORY: Ernest Wright, his wife Gladys and their two children Ella and Gladys as photographed before Ernest went to battle in World War I.

Research showed that after Wright's death by an explosion in France on November 23, 1916, the plaque was given to his wife, Gladys Henrietta Wright, and their two children, Ella and Gladys.

Yesterday, the plaque was given to two of Wright's grandchildren - neither knew the other was still alive.

Gladys' daughter, Beverley Gurdler, 76, remembers playing with the penny as a child, and it being in the house until she moved out when she was 20.

WELL SPOTTED: The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque, also known as a Dead Man’s Penny,  was found among earthquake waste at Burwood Resource Recovery Park.
WELL SPOTTED: The Next of Kin Memorial Plaque, also known as a Dead Man’s Penny, was found among earthquake waste at Burwood Resource Recovery Park.

"It was in a cardboard folder and we wanted to spend it [as kids] as we thought it must be worth more [than a penny] as it was bigger," she said. "It was granddad's coin."

After her parents died, their Linwood house was sold and the possessions divided up. The penny was lost.

After reading the original article, Rae Prosser contacted The Press as her mother was Wright's daughter Ella.

The 71-year-old had no idea her cousin, Gurdler, lived in Christchurch.

The pair instantly recognised each other when they reunited yesterday, despite not having been together since they were teenagers.

Prosser said they had lost touch over the years as extended families tended to do.

Gurdler said they planned to catch up regularly, with a family reunion on the cards.

The Press