‘Holiday’ hard work for Aussie couple

Tuesday October 16, 2018 Written by Published in Local
Frank Pike and Debbie Harris at the Nikao Cemetery where they have been painting graves and memorials. 18101229 Frank Pike and Debbie Harris at the Nikao Cemetery where they have been painting graves and memorials. 18101229

Australians Debbie Harris and Frank Pike have spent almost every day of their holiday on Rarotonga helping to rebuild graves and memorials at Nikao Cemetery.


CINews found them taking a break from painting and beautifying the graves in the cancer victims’ section of the cemetery.

Pike says: “We’ve been at it for a week, we did have one day – Sunday – off.  We’ve probably recoated and repainted 20-odd graves from the Milan Brych graveyard area.”

“It’s been hard work,” says Debbie.

“But very rewarding,” Pike adds.

“Just to see it look beautiful again and restore some dignity for these people who passed away here and, basically, have been left,” Harris says. “And a lot of them forgotten … well the graves have been, anyway.”

Pike says: “Hopefully with all the work Cate (Walker) and Paul (Morrissey) have been doing that there will be a message out there for people who don’t realise that there are still graves here from their relatives – uncles or aunts, anybody else who was involved with the cancer treatment campaign by Milan Brych.

“Hopefully they will recognise it and come back – as we have done to help restore Mark’s grave. Mark was Deb’s fiancé 40 years ago. She was very young, only 16, and nurtured him until he passed away. Which I thought was a very brave thing for a girl of 16 to do by herself.

“But it is a very rewarding thing to see how Mark’s grave has been restored and Barbara, Mark’s sister, came over as well with her husband.

“It’s good to see participation from foreign workers and it would be nice to see a lot more locals get involved.

“I’m sure once they understand the situation and what we are doing we’ll get a lot more people involved.

“Paula Paniani is a shining example, a very dedicated girl. Quite instrumental in getting this organised. She is hopeful the campaign will step up one or two notches and we’ll get a lot more support from the local community.

“And,” Pike adds, “donations from various groups, government and businesses would be very helpful.”

Harris says: “Donations of paint, rollers, anything, would be fantastic.

“I read a quote the other day that it takes three generations to forget a grave.

“I think that’s probably correct. If it is not passed down and people not reminded of their ancestors, then they just get forgotten.”   

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