While restoring neglected graves of servicemen and veterans, Narooma RSL sub-branch found an unmarked grave with a Rising Sun badge denoting it belonged to a serviceman.
With the help of amateur historian Sylvia Gauslaa they identified the serviceman as Joe Murray.
Ms Gauslaa found a newspaper article dated January 26, 1967 telling how two young girls discovered his body in a derelict building after the 52-year-old had died from a heart attack about a month earlier.
The 8th Division veteran had been captured in Singapore and spent more than 3.5 years in the notorious Changi prison.
The newspaper article reported that four other former POWs, along with Basil Travis, head bar manager of what is now O'Briens Hotel who had spent some time in Changi with Mr Murray, attended his funeral.
It turned out that Mr Murray spent the last years of his life with the family of Narooma local Bill Dudley.
Mr Dudley was a child when Mr Murray entered their lives in around 1960.
Mr Dudley's father was Narooma's police sergeant and locked Mr Murray in the station's cells for 30 days for sleeping rough around the town and tasked him with weeding, mowing and chopping firewood.
Mr Dudley's mother was a great cook and people in the station's cells ate the same meals as the Dudley family.
When the 30-day lock-up ended, Mr Murray asked the sergeant if he could live in the shed behind the family's garage and continue to work in return for meals.
He was mostly well-behaved but occasionally went on drinking binges.
"When he came back, he would abuse Mum and Dad, so Dad kicked him out," Mr Dudley said.
Each time, Mr Murray would catch the bus to Cobargo, spend a few days with Father Flynn, then return to the Dudley family apologetic.
Christmas Eve 1966 he went on a drinking binge but never returned.
Nor did he contact Father Flynn.
When his body was discovered weeks later severely decomposed "Dad almost had to shovel him up".
The POW always remembered the Dudley children's birthdays and gave them little presents and taught Mr Dudley to smoke when he was 10 years old.
Mr Dudley said that among Private Murray's few possessions was a commendation along the lines "this man should never have to work again as he was a POW in Changi and went through a really rough time".
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