Sam Healy held no hope that her grandfather’s stolen war medals would ever make it back into her hands.
But on Anzac Day, a year on from the burglary of her Hamilton home, she was able to hold the memory of navy gunner Leo Deighton’s efforts as she stood before the Memorial Dr cenotaph.
By chance, the annual commemorations had reminded an elderly man of his discovery down a Hamilton alleyway months earlier.
He’d found a box of World War II medals abandoned in Melville and handed them into Hamilton central police station.
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In hopes of a speedy reconciliation, Waikato police Constable Peter van’t Wout posted an image of the medals’ original postal box on Facebook asking if anyone could identify them.
Healy knew the box too well.
“I happened to have a look on Facebook, and it was the first post that came up – I was just scrolling down and saw the photographs of my grandfather’s box.
“I put a post up saying ‘they’re mine, they’re mine’.”
Within an hour of seeing the post on Monday, Healy was at the police station collecting the treasures from Katy-Jo Martin, who stayed late to reconcile the treasures with their owner.
“I was just very pleased to see them again – it amounts to disbelief. I opened them up straight away and they were all there.
“They obviously hadn’t been touched, and had just been dumped.”
Nestled in their original postal box were a selection of medals awarded to the late navy vet for services in World War II.
Among them a 1939-45 Star for the Battle of Britain, the Atlantic Star, the Burma Star for the Pacific campaign, the Italy Star and the 1939-45 War Medal.
Healey inherited the war medals when her grandfather died five years ago. The support worker always had a close relationship with him and travelled back to England to claim the medals.
She brought them to New Zealand and hid them at the back of a clothes drawer.
On April 22, 2016, the mother of two was away for a few days when thieves raided her former Rawlings St home. After prying open the bedroom window the culprits went room to room, opening every drawer.
“I thought there was zero chance of getting them back, no chance.”
She took them with her to the memorial service in Hamilton on Tuesday morning.
“It feels like you’re carrying a little bit of your family with you. I would have come to the service and thought about him anyway and it was pretty amazing to have the medals on me.
“If he happens to be able to look down on us, it’s a bit special.”
Now Healy will be able to hand the heirlooms down to her children William, 11, and Jorji, 9.
“I’m carrying them around with me, I don’t know what to do with them now. I need a good place to hide them in case I get burgled again.”