Kaikohe man Bruce McNabb has been reunited with his his great uncle's stolen Gallipoli medal thanks to eagle-eyed locals who spotted it on a rural roadside almost a year after his home was burgled.
Among the precious family mementoes taken when his house was broken into was a bronze medal awarded posthumously to his great uncle Roy McNabb, who was killed 22 days after landing at Gallipoli in April 1915.
Mr McNabb assumed he would never see it again, until his daughter in Ōhaeawai saw a Facebook post from someone who was trying to track down the owner of a medal found beside Picadilly Rd, about 10km from Mr McNabb's home. The medal had R.A. McNabb engraved on the back.
He called the finders, Debbie and Willie Maihi, and a few days later Willie delivered the medal to its delighted owner.
"Willie was quite emotional about it himself, finding something like this from someone who had sacrificed his life. He knew its importance. We need people like that who care, and who do something about it," he said.
He was hugely grateful to the Maihi family for finding the medal and returning it, and hoped a lasting friendship would come out of it. Mr Maihi had already been invited to join Mr McNabb's weekly music sessions.
Roy McNabb was not the only member of the family to die in World War I. His brother Cyril died on the fifth day of the Gallipoli campaign, while another brother, Vincent, is thought to have survived Gallipoli only to be killed at the Battle of the Somme.
Mr McNabb said all three brothers would have been awarded the Gallipoli medal, with Roy's passed down to him about four years ago.
He had always been keenly aware of the sacrifices made at Gallipoli because his maternal grandfather had died at Chunuk Bair, and his father had been named Vincent Cyril Roy McNabb in honour of his uncles.
He had begun attending Anzac Day services about 20 years ago.
"I found it utterly, utterly moving, and I've been going ever since." Even talking about the medal's return made him emotional, he said.
Willie Maihi said he and his wife were going for a regular walk on Picadilly Rd when they spotted the medal.
"Blow me down, there it was. Someone must have thrown it out of a car. Luckily we found it. We're just stoked that someone responded to the Facebook post and we were able to give it back," he said.
Other items taken in the burglary, including a 40th wedding anniversary pendant and a greenstone pendant, have not been recovered.