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Fighting for their honour

The Rongotea Cenotaph has had an additional plaque with the names of the fallen added to the base to ensure the names can be honoured and read in years to come.  This project was all started by 94-year-old Prudence Amey-Riddle (Prue), a lifelong Rongotea resident and supported by Tracy Sharples MDC Parks and Property Administration Support Officer.

Prudence Amey-Riddle (Prue) has lived in Rongotea all her life – that’s 94 years, apart from nearly 3 years when she travelled and lived in England at the age of 21.

Her parents were an established family in the area as they began Amey’s Seed and Produce while taking active roles in the community.  You could say it’s through these firm, family values that Prue’s love for Rongotea developed as well as a heart for the community in which she lived.

Prue’s family has a long history of loved ones being drafted for war.  With family and friends buried overseas the Amey family have made the journey to visit graves in both Europe and the Middle East.  Some of the grandchildren even travelled to Belgium to participate in the 100-year commemorations of the Battle of Passchendaele in which Prue’s Father William Amey was injured.

Upon his return home, William became the chairman of the Farewell committee for the soldiers who left to serve in WW2. These included his own son Leonard Amey. Prue was only young, but she can remember these events, especially the one to farewell her brother.

It is safe to say that Prue and her family have always been regular attendees of the Rongotea Anzac Service and yet reflecting on their own experiences of travelling overseas to honour the fallen, they considered how disappointing a family would find it to travel to Rongotea only to discover the names of their loved one illegible after years of natural and environmental wear to the marble.

“We are reminded to give thanks, but you couldn’t even read the names”, Prue explains.  And so, the two-year journey began with the help of Prue’s niece Karen Amey-Parsons, to advocate to have the names legible.  “I thought you’d just be able to take a pen and rewrite them” says Prue and yet as Karen would discover the ownership and funding around cenotaphs in New Zealand is a grey area.

Cenotaphs are not technically owned by either Council or the RSA and as a result there is not designated funding to maintain and restore the cenotaphs.

After multiple phone calls from Karen over a two-year period and a lot of behind the scenes’ work from Tracy Sharples, MDC Parks and Property Administration Support Officer, this year the Rongotea cenotaph now holds a new black granite plaque that has been added at the base of the cenotaph to ensure that the names are legible, and the material of the plaque will have a long life of honour.   “We didn’t want to alter the original cenotaph, but we wanted to ensure that the names were legible which is why after working with Nick from Beauchamp Signs & Memorial we landed on this solution,” Tracy Sharples explains.

Although all names on the cenotaph are to be honoured, one particular name was the driving force behind Prue’s persistence: John Arthur Grady.  Prue was best friends with John’s sister Colleen who currently lives in Palmerston North.  The Grady family lived just down the street and owned the local bakery.  John was born in Marton, enlisted through Ohakea and at the age of 19 he along with 5 others in his plane were shot down over Europe.  It is believed that John is interned in a cemetery in Germany and Prue can still remember John’s uniform and belongings arriving back to New Zealand, “It would have been horrible for his parents to receive that package”.   John Arthur Grady was awarded a Service Medal.

The Grady family home can be seen from the Rongotea cenotaph.  This Anzac Day as the service takes place at the cenotaph, John’s name along with all of the other fallen soldiers will be honoured and remembered in a clearer and more readable way.  “We owe it to them”, says Prue.

“It was an honour to work with the Amey family to find a solution.  Prue’s love for Rongotea and those that helped to build the Rongotea area remind us of those that have made the district home before us, and our role in honouring their legacy”, Tracy explains.

(L) Prudence Amey-Riddle (Prue) and her niece Karen Amey-Parsons.  
(R) Prue's Anzac Display including her Father, William Amey photos and medals.

The Rongotea Cenotaph with the new black marble plaque.