Treasured memories back from the ashes

GOLDEN DISCOVERY: Tathra's Kath and Don Tetley in their new home with one of the photographs discovered in Kevin Tetley's collection. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
GOLDEN DISCOVERY: Tathra's Kath and Don Tetley in their new home with one of the photographs discovered in Kevin Tetley's collection. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

Following the destruction of the March bushfire, many families are dealing with the loss of their most sentimental possessions.

For Tathra’s Kath and Don Tetley, life has changed considerably following the fire. But a surprise reconnection with some lost family memorabilia is helping the healing process.

I just know I can’t get them back, it’s impossible to replace something like this.

Tathra resident Kath Tetley

The married couple of 53 years’ home was destroyed by the fast moving fire, and with it their most priceless possessions – irreplaceable family photographs.

“It was just a hopeless bloody mess, the chopper came over dropping water on the roof, the tiles caved in and even the fridge melted,” Mr Tetley said.

Unbelievably, copies of two photographs from her son’s wedding, including one of her late father Charles Fawke, were recently found among thousands of pictures donated to the Bega Pioneers' Museum by former president Kevin Tetley who died late last year.

For Ms Tetley, the pictures triggered decades of memories, and the couple feel there are more hidden gems in the museum’s collection.

“I cried when I saw them,” the 69-year-old said.

“The photographs I’m sad to lose are of my parents when they were younger. In those days photos weren’t as easy to get as they are now.

“I just know I can’t get them back, it’s impossible to replace something like this.”

While Ms Tetley’s husband Don, or ‘Teabags’ as he is known, is the late photographer Kevin’s cousin, the couple are puzzled as to how he would have come into possession of the photographs.

Also lost in the fire was Ms Tetley’s engagement ring, documents of her adoption and her extensive book collection, but the couple’s temporary home has been filled with donations of all kinds, and boxes of burnt possessions were collected by not-for-profit disaster recovery group Team Rubicon.

“The generosity of people has got to me more than anything else,” Mr Tetley said.

“I am feeling it, I’ve never had shock before, but I’ll get over it.

“I’ve photographed some fires in my time, and the speed this thing moved at was extremely fast, then we didn’t officially know we’d lost our house for two days.”

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