THE grave of Victorian policeman First Constable James Brewis is in the Lismore Cemetery ... somewhere.
Killed in a car accident while on duty at Derrinallum in 1954, Constable Brewis was buried in an unmarked grave because his young widow could not afford a headstone.
His family believes he is buried in the tiny Church of England section in a grave marked only as “occupied”.
But thanks to the diligence of the constable’s grandson, Jason Kelly, and funding under a new state government scheme, Constable Brewis’ final resting place will be properly marked.
As part of restoration works to be undertaken by the state government, the grave of the 30-year police veteran will finally be marked with a plaque and a Victoria Police badge. Most graves of the 157 Victorian police officers who lost their lives protecting others are maintained by relatives. However, in the case of Constable Brewis and another local officer, Ballarat Constable William Thomas Clarke, who died in 1887 and was buried at the New Street cemetery, their graves have been left derelict.
In the cases where families of those officers have been unable to maintain the graves, the state government has committed to ensuring appropriate action be taken to restore the graves to a condition that befits the members’ contribution to the community.
The graves of constables Brewis and Clarke are among 14 which will be restored as part of the Victorian Police Graves Memorial Fund, managed by the Police Graves Restoration Committee, which comprises members of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, the Police Association and Victoria Police Historical Society.
To meet the repair costs of the 14 graves, the state government has provided $40,000.
And Jason Kelly couldn’t be happier or prouder that Constable Brewis will finally have his own headstone at the Lismore cemetery.
“I never got to meet my grandfather, but my grandmother had lots of photographs of him along her mantle piece, although she wouldn’t talk about him,” Mr Kelly said. “It was while going through our family tree that I discovered his grave at Lismore was unmarked. I checked through the Lismore Cemetery books and those responsible at the time (of Constable Brewis’ death), didn’t even bother to put his name next to his plot number, so we don’t know the exact location of his grave.
“All we know is that he was buried in the small Church of England section and we believe it is marked with the word ‘occupied’.”
Originally stationed at Sale and Maffra in Gippsland, Constable Brewis was transferred to Maribyrnong before his move to the Lismore Police Station.
He quickly became entrenched in the community, playing for and coaching the Lismore Football Club.
Constable Brewis was killed in a car accident at Derrinallum on November 28, 1954. He was on duty at the time, conducting an investigation and attempting to locate a person wanted for theft, when the car he was driving hit gravel and rolled.
His death at 51 left his wife to raise two small children, Norman, five, and new-born Cathy – Mr Kelly’s mother.
Victoria Police were unaware that Constable Brewis had been on duty at the time of his death until his grandson contacted the Chief Commissioner in 2012 and got the ball rolling.
After an inquiry by Victoria Police’s Honours and Awards Committee, Constable Brewis’ name was recorded on the Victoria Police Honour Roll.
Mr Kelly pulled out all stops to have his grandfather’s name not only included on the honour roll, but also the police memorial in St Kilda Road in Melbourne and the national police memorial in Canberra. Finally, both dreams were realised.
On Blue Ribbon Day in September last year, Constable Brewis’ family attended a ceremony at the national police memorial in Canberra, where they met Governor General Quentin Bryce.
The family’s next step is to have a headstone with the Victoria Police badge placed on his grave. This dream is expected to be realised early next year.