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Funeral home to donate memorial

RACHEL THOMAS
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2014

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A local funeral company has promised to donate a memorial for the 500-plus dead buried in unmarked graves in southern Waikato.

Mark Reinsfield, manager of James R Hill Funeral Directors approached the Times after Saturday's story on The Tokanui Hospital Cemetery, where more than 500 people who lived and died at Tokanui Psychiatric Hospital in southern Waikato are buried in little more than a farmer's paddock.

At present, a nameless plaque in a corner of the burial field is the only reminder of the deceased.

"It was honestly the saddest thing I've read in the Times in ages," Reinsfield said. "How could they just dump people in the ground?

"Now we have the chance to give these people some recognition."

In addition to sponsoring a granite wall listing names of each person known to be buried in the cemetery, Reinsfield hoped to host a memorial service at the site, and would invite families of those buried in the cemetery to attend.

Reinsfield has watched family go through mental institutions - his grandfather was sent to Avondale Mental Asylum in Auckland with post-traumatic stress disorder, then known as "shell shock".

"He was there a long time, but one day my father said: ‘you are not staying here any longer', and he took him out."

He also recalled visiting a friend of his parents in Tokanui Hospital when he was a child. Despite this, he admitted he had no clue that the cemetery existed until Saturday.

A granite wall, about three metres long and 1.5 metres high is what Reinsfield envisioned.

"We want to have the names of all those people, like ‘in this field lies. . .' then on the other side we would have something for the war vets."

He said the wall would be worth up to $15,000. He's keen to include the RSA logo and "maybe the Boer War symbol".

"If people know where graves are we are prepared to put a headstone on each grave."

Reinsfield said the gesture had been approved from head office in Auckland.

He plans to visit the site with his stonemason, who is based in Blenheim, in coming weeks.

The cemetery is under Department of Conservation management. Partnership ranger Mike Paviour said DOC would be "absolutely" open to the idea of a donated memorial.

"We would still put anything through the people who have loved ones out there." rachel.thomas@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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