Topic: Bid to repair gravestones

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Efforts are underway to replace two soldiers’ headstones in the old Tauranga cemeteries between 17th and 18th Avenues (2014).

Heather McLean (Tauranga WW100)The project is being driven two members the Tauranga WW100 committee charged with co-ordinating local commemoration activities to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Heather McLean, a stalwart of the Tauranga branch of the NZ Society of Genealogists, has been recording and photographing inscriptions on headstones in graveyards throughout the Bay of Plenty region for more than 30 years.

“They contain a lot of fascinating history,” she says.

Fiona Kean works with the Tauranga City Council Heritage Collection.

The pair recently discovered that two headstones in the old cemeteries have been destroyed.

“With the centenary of WWI and the 75thanniversary of the start of WWII taking place this year it is important that the men and women who took part in these conflicts are remembered,” says Heather.  “These headstones are a record of these two men’s service and because of that they should be repaired.”

The graves concerned belong to WWI veteran Trooper Robert Barnett Brunner Cooper and WWII veteran Private Lewis Jones.

Neither man was born locally but both apparently died and were buried here in the 1960s.

Heather McLean says past research has revealed that Robert Cooper, a coal miner,  was born in  Greymouth in 1891 and enlisted in the Canterbury Regt. He married a Myrtle McKay in 1919 and the couple raised two children. His subsequent history is unknown, but he died in Tauranga in August 1963.

Private Jones  enlisted in Taupiri and is thought to have been a bushman with Maori ancestry.  There is no record of him ever marrying and he died in Mt Maunganui in 1965.

Local Returned Services Association clubs have no record of either man as past members.

“We are trying to contact any next of kin to let them know what we are doing,’ says Heather. They may be unaware the graves are broken. Hopefully they might like to contribute  to the cost of replacement headstones which Ray McKenzie Monumental Masons have offered to supply for a total of $1000. Veterans Affairs are unable to help financially as the graves are not located within the RSA sections of the cemeteries. 

“The Genealogy Society has made a small donation to start the repair fund, but we are hoping  members of the public may like to contribute too.

If you would like to contribute please contact Heather Ph 07 5781689 or email   -  ENDZ

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Bid to repair gravestones