Grief-stricken family mourning Kokoda veteran devastated by uncovered grave

A KOKODA veteran’s uncovered grave has been exposed to the elements during Wagga’s wettest September on record.

Ronald Menneke, who died aged 93, was laid to rest in the Monumental Cemetery on Kooringal Road on August 29, but a granite slab still hasn’t been placed over the top of his grave.

Mr Menneke’s grief-stricken niece Susan Edwards refuses to lay flowers on the mud covering the coffin.

“I’m totally disappointed that a man who fought for his country can just be left in a sodden hole,” Mrs Edwards said.

“Words cannot describe the indignity of laying there under a tonne of wet mud.

“It’s very distressing seeing a loved one treated with such little respect, he deserves some dignity in death.” 

The grave site has not been attended to since last month’s burial attended by ex-service personnel.

“If I had known this was going to happen, I would have put a temporary tarpaulin over the grave myself,” Mrs Edwards said.

It comes six months after a frail-aged mother saw her son Trevor’s coffin floating in water before it was covered with soil at the Narrandera cemetery because of a high water table.

Back in April, the Cootamundra council’s response to watery graves was to do nothing other than minimise families’ exposure to uncovered graves, as the corpses did not endanger “drinking and stock and domestic water supplies”.

Wagga council refused requests for an interview, but absolved themselves of any responsibility in a written statement.

“Monumental graves are private property; as such council is not able to remove and refit the lids,” a council spokeswoman said. 

“Lid removal and refitting is arranged by the family.

“This matter is between the family and the funeral director.”

Alan Harris McDonald funeral directors CEO Alan Nugent said the regrettable situation was unavoidable, given the saturated ground.

“It’s completely an occupational health and safety, and logistics issue for the monumental stonemasons we contract,” Mr Nugent said.

“They can't get into position to suction to reapply the half-tonne granite slab in these wet and slippery conditions.

“They have to put a truck in position around grave, which has the potential to damage other monuments.”

Mr Nugent moved to allay the family’s fear the coffin would have been unduly effected by the torrential rain in the weeks since the burial.

“It's not as if the graves are unfilled, the soil is 200mm above ground level,” Mr Nugent said.

“In effect, the conditions are the same as any other grave with a grass covering, without a monument.”

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