When John Malcon turned 21 in 1943, he was about to leave the country (New Zealand) for the Pacific war. He specified "no presents" but a close friend ignored the request and gave him a sterling silver tiki on a chain. Mr Malcon had his initial and surname, army number, religion and blood type engraved on the back and wore it throughout his army service in the New Hebrides where 36 Battalion was working alongside American troops. He said standing on a sea egg spike while swimming in the tropical waters landed him in an American army hospital there and among the visitors he received were Admiral William Halsey and Eleanor Roosevelt.
With no other injuries from his war service, and with his silver tiki still around his neck. Mr Malcon is a member of the Feilding Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association and for 28 years he was a regular visitor to the Palmerston North hospital on behalf of both the Feilding RSA and the Rangitikei Club. It was not until he was there as a patient about six years ago that he lost the silver tiki which he had worn for more than 60 years.
"I had to remove all metal to have an X-ray and it was not until I was in the shower that evening that I realised my tiki was not around my neck," he said. "I retraced my steps and at the hospital the girl helped me search the X-ray department, but my tiki was not found. I didn't think I would ever see it again."
However, someone had found it, and recognised the number as an army number. About a year ago the person who found it called at the Paraparaumu RSA and gave it to President William Powell. He didn't do anything about it at first, thinking that it must have belonged to a World War II soldier, and the chances of finding him alive were slight. A few weeks ago his wife reminded him that a tiki should be returned to its owner and she set him on the path to find the J Malcon whose name was on the little silver tiki.
Mr Powell said: "I went to Trentham records but, although they could confirm John Malcon had been a serviceman, they had no knowledge of where he lived now or whether he was still alive." He contacted Palmerston North RSA last week but there was no Malcon on their membership, and White Pages showed no Malcon in Palmerston North. "So I went to Malcon in the whole country and there was a J Malcon in Feilding. I phoned John and asked his army number," Mr Powell said.
"That's something you never forget," Mr Malcon said."When he told me he had my tiki, I was quite overcome. When I got off the phone, I couldn't remember who he was or where he was from, only that he was returning my tiki."
On Tuesday Mr Powell and Paraparaumu RSA welfare officer Alan Dempsey travelled to Feilding to hand the tiki back to Mr Malcon. There was huge emotion over the fact that something which held such strong links with the war had found its way home.
From the Manawatu Standard.