It’s been 65 years since artist Rangi Downes has heard from the family that took him under their wing when he was 12.
But after an article about him creating Mickey Mouse paintings to help support cancer sufferer Megan Hore in The Star, the 77-year-old was reunited with the daughters of Kathleen Higgs, who helped him when his adopted family fell ill.
Downes said he got a phone call out of the blue.
“She said do you still have the little red bike that you used to ride to the pictures,” he said.
“I said who is this but she wouldn’t tell me, she said you have to guess.”
Downes said he worked out it could only be one of the daughters of Mrs Higgs, Gloria Dawson.
While he had never lived
with Mrs Higgs and her six children, he said he was there most days helping her out for three years.
Downes’ adopted parents and brother all fell ill when he was 11 and 12. His mother died of stomach cancer, while his father “dropped dead” on the way out of a medical examination, which he’d passed with flying colours.
After that it was Mrs Higgs who filled the gap.
“There were so many time were Mrs Higgs spoke to me about life in general. She was a good woman. No one ever went hungry,” he said.
But after three years with the family, Downes fell ill of tuberculosis himself and was bound to his bed. They lost touch.
“It’s been about 65 years since I’ve heard from these people. They don’t understand how much I’ve thought of them since then,” he said.
A friend of Mrs Dawson sent the article from The Star up to her home in the Bay of Islands and from there, she got in touch with Downes.
Downes said he’d sent her a package of clippings, news articles and photos.
“I’ve sent some cuttings up to the Bay of Islands. We’ve got a lot to catch up on, it’s been 65 years,” he said.
In the mean time, Downes will also be heading to Westport soon to catch up with Mrs Dawson’s sister Joan.
“It’s so lovely to be back in touch with them,” he said.