Vandals deface renowned ambulance pioneer’s grave
THE daughter of a pioneer of the Queensland Air Ambulance Service is horrified to find his grave has been vandalised and an irreplaceable memento stolen.
Superintendent Keith Howarth died in 2010 after a long and distinguished career in the air ambulance service (now Royal Flying Doctor Service), having stepped up into the senior position in 1973 and serving until 1988.
His daughter, Leslie Rowf, said her dad's service had been honoured on his headstone with bronze pilot wings that he wore on his uniform.
"It was one of the old ones and they are not made anymore." she said.
"They have little value to anybody else but they are irreplaceable."
Ms Rowf was shocked that someone had pried the wings from the headstone at Gordonvale Cemetery.
"Someone has desecrated the headstone - why would they? People at the cemetery told me it happened between April and August," she said.
The defacing of Mr Howarth's grave was not the first to strike a Far Northern cemetery. In 2015, a group of children were caught in the act of trashing graves at Mareeba cemetery.
In 2015, Nellie Gaiardo discovered that vandals had desecrated the grave of her parents, also at Gordonvale cemetery, smashing vases, crucifixes, pictures and other items in a cruel and heartless attack.
And in 2017, a 41 year old man drove his car through a Mt Sheridan cemetery, damaging the headstones of 60 infants.
Mr Howarth forged a career in the early days of the Air Ambulance Service prior to the transfer of the Royal Flying Doctors to Cairns in 1979.
In 1951, the then pilot officer Howarth crashed into the sea with pilot and captain Neville Hicks on November 26. The de Havilland Dragon Rapide was returning from Vanrook Station with a patient.
But tragically, despite a heroic effort in the waters near Double Island, their patient drowned. Ms Rowf is hopeful someone will come forward to return the treasured pilot's wings.
"Maybe it will be lying in some child's belongings," Ms Rowf said.
Originally published as Vandals deface renowned ambulance pioneer's grave