Heartbreak after memorial ruined

An adoring father visited his late daughter’s memorial site on a cycle track in Te Anau to find it almost destroyed.

WHEN Te Anau man Lewis Dobson used to cart 162 litres of water a day to the memorial he built for his late daughter, it nearly killed him.

Since Terri-Belinda Dobson died by suicide 13 years ago, he had planted 900 trees, introduced two bench seats and decorated a cross with flowers regularly to make it the “most beautiful tribute in the world”.

Just weeks away from what would have been her 50th birthday, he recently visited the site to find it had been almost entirely destroyed.

“My heart just broke.”

That was the emotion he felt when he arrived at the cycle track near Mt York in Te Anau recently.

Only the base of the cross was left.

It appeared someone had snapped it off, the flowers were sprawled out behind trees, a 2-foot-wide mosaic was missing and the small heart-shaped mementos gone.

The police were contacted and they searched the surrounding area for parts of the cross – to no avail.

“All the flowers were gone… there could have been more than $300 worth.

“There was just nothing there.”

A few years ago, about 12 of the native trees he had planted were stolen and the person responsible was never found by police.

Mr Dobson adopted his daughter and thought the world of her.

She had lived a particularly active life, from being dux at primary school, a standout pupil at Tuatapere High School, and then a university graduate with an accounting, marketing and tourism degree.

After working in many tourism-related roles, she went on to get an engineering certificate, her skipper’s licence and was an “amazing” photographer.

The pair spent many school holidays working on their Eastern Bush farm together.

“There’s nothing she couldn’t do.

“She did more in her 37 years than what people would do in 90.”

What he was most proud of was who she was.

Despite living with debilitating depression for most of her life, she had achieved so much and was an all-round good person, loved by many.

“I just want her to know how much her dad loved her.”

Local police were helping to investigate who was responsible for the damage.

In the meantime, Mr Dobson was organising a new memorial to replace what was left, and preparing for a 50th birthday celebration for his daughter at the site this week.

“We’ve got a big cake for Terri’s birthday and all the kids are coming along. It’s all sorted.”