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If Ulric Williams' father had not been on hand in Havelock early last century, it's possible Nasa might not have made it to the moon.

On Saturday, Mr Williams was reunited with Sir William Pickering - his best friend at Havelock Primary School and the man who eventually put the United States' first satellites into space.

Mr Williams' father, Richard, was Havelock's doctor when the pair were growing up and saved the young Sir William from diphtheria.

Mr Williams, now living in Hawkes Bay, had not seen his friend since 1920 but was one of a large crowd of people who gathered to watch Sir William unveil a memorial to himself and physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford.

Sir William, 92, and Lord Rutherford, famous for splitting the atom, both attended Havelock Primary School, about 50 years apart.