One of the pleasures of my job as Ambassador is regularly encountering interesting people doing interesting and often uplifting things. While rifling files this week during my usual January spring-cleaning, I rediscovered a letter that I received in 2011 about one such interesting person – Wellington resident and all-around great guy, Wayne Frampton. (If you recognize the name, Wayne runs Frampton Signs, a 68-year-old family business here.)

War Memorial at Island Bay where the plaque is situated facing out to sea.

The plaque faces out to sea at Island Bay.

Wayne came to my attention initially because he restored — on his own initiative, at his own expense, and with no fanfare — a plaque at Island Bay dedicated to U.S. Naval Submariners who lost their lives in the line of duty in the Pacific during World War II.

Unveiled in 1979 by His Worship Michael Fowler, then Mayor of Wellington, the plaque lists the names of all 52 U.S. submarines (carrying a total of 3,505 men) destroyed in action during the war.

The memorial plaque was conceived by the New Zealand Consul-General in New York at the time (the Hon. G.M. Ross) and Thomas E. Kaiser of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (the American institution similar to the RSA).

Chatting together at an official function one day, Consul-General Ross spoke of the presence and activities of the Second Marine Division at Pauatahanui during the early 1940s.

Mr. Kaiser was impressed by the significance and impact of the collaboration between New Zealand and the United States, and further conversations ensued. He and Mr. Ross concluded that Wellington would be a fitting location for a memorial to American submariners who lost their lives defending the Pacific in the 1940s. Among those seamen still on patrol is Mr. Kaiser’s brother, Robert Wellington Kaiser, Jr., who had been lost on the U.S. submarine Trout on 29 February 1944.

In its day the Trout was a force to be reckoned with, seeing action throughout the South Pacific, the Philippines, and Japanese waters. Its most famous mission occured late one night in February 1942 when at the request of the Philippine government it spirited 20 tons of gold bars and silver pesos from the nation’s currency reserve out of Manila to prevent it from falling into the hands of the invaders. While on patrol in the South China Sea two years later, the Trout was presumed lost in a massive depth-charge attack by three Japanese destroyers.

The plaque as Mr. Frampton found it.

The plaque as Wayne found it.

Mr. Frampton at work restoring the plaque.

Wayne at work.

The gleaming restored Plaque at Island Bay.

The results of Wayne’s labors.

It’s important not to forget the service rendered, sacrifice made, and price paid by those who came before us. The statues, plaques, and memorials around us are more than decoration. They record what others have done to contribute to the relatively comfortable, peaceful, and prosperous lives that we lead today. Remembering uplifts, enriches, and advises us, but we too often don’t have the time, patience, or sense to do so. 

It’s wonderful to encounter someone who not only reads the words but acts to preserve them. So, it occurred to me today that the letter that I sent to Wayne last year wasn’t enough. I’d like to convey publicly my deep appreciation for time and effort that he invested in restoring one of those meaningful pieces of history. Thank you, Wayne Frampton.