It could have been a sad and solitary occasion, but instead a 78-year-old man who died alone in his Wellington apartment was surrounded by family when lowered into his final resting place.

Of the 20 who gathered at Kopuatama Cemetery just out of Stratford, Taranaki, only five or six had met James Grant.

Photos of the man known as Jim or Jimmy were also hard to find - the last known images of him were from Christmas Day 1954.

His body was found in his Mulgrave St apartment, near Parliament, on March 2. Police also found a Bible, his cat's ashes in an urn and a newspaper, which suggested he could have died in January.


Grant was given a funeral at The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Wellington and Harbour City Funeral Home director Simon Manning uncovered what he could about Grant, but it appeared he had no close family.

But then a breakthrough. Distant relatives saw media coverage and, after getting in touch with Manning, Grant's interment was organised for Saturday.

Sandra Collins, whose father Peter O'Neill was one of Grant's cousins, put together a booklet for the service and contacted far-flung members of the family so they could say goodbye.

"It's so nice to think that even though he spent the majority of his life in Wellington, he's home with his family," Collins said.

"He's in the right place."

Collins said paying their respects to Grant was a "nice feeling".

"It's unusual farewelling someone that you didn't know but it was the right thing to do. He did belong to somebody, he belonged to us, even though he perhaps chose not to be in touch with his family."

Manning was happy Grant's relatives came forward and he was buried in the family plot.


"From my perspective it's the perfect end to what could have been quite a sad situation."

Grant had a few friends, but most of them were from the days of the Wellington Workingmen's Club that closed a decade ago.

At 15 he joined the post office and spent the next 50 years there, working in Te Aro, Trentham and finally the Wellington Railway Station.

While his later life sounded lonely and sad, Manning said earlier this year his decades in the funeral trade taught him to keep an open mind.

"The important thing is not to judge him or his life. If he chose to live that way it's not sad for him, what he chose to do."