First appeared in The Moorabool News, September 12
It was April 1975 when Joe Procko stumbled across an old name plaque from one of the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour trees.
It belonged to Richard Coates, a baker who enlisted to serve in the First World War at the age of 30.
Mr Procko said he and his wife went for a walk to buy fruit, when their dog went off into the bushes and started sniffing around. The plaque was located about ten-metres from the road.
Richard Coates’ commemoration, which had been deemed missing for four decades, resurfaced in Mr Procko’s belongings and was returned to the Bacchus Marsh RSL just last week.
Bruce Lawton, Bacchus Marsh RSL Secretary and Treasurer, said it was “astonishing”.
“When Joe Procko found the plaque again, close to 40-years-later, he rang us right away and asked if he could send it back to us. I said of course”.
In a letter accompanying the plaque, Mr Procko said he was pleased to have finally returned the item to the RSL.
“It certainly has delighted me that finally the historic item is going back to where it should have been – on a tree and not laying in long grass and in some strangers shed.
“I sincerely hope you will be able to locate the descendants of the hero in whose honour the plaque is”.
The finding comes less than 12-months before the 100th anniversary of the planting of the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour.
Bacchus Marsh RSL president, Cherrison Lawton said the timing was “just perfect”.
“This is one of the original plaques that was planted with the first Avenue of Honour trees back in 1918. We were so excited to receive it and it will now be placed in our new display cabinets,” she said.
“We hope to hunt down any descendants of Richard Coates as next year a commemorative service is planned for August 11, to celebrate the Avenue of Honour centenary”.
Richard Coates enlisted at Bacchus Marsh in the 3 rd Light Horse Brigade Train on September 16 1914. He joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli in July 1915 and was wounded two months later.
In September that year, he was admitted to hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, with a gunshot wound to the left shoulder and the right hand. He arrived back in Australia at the end of November and was discharged in September 1916. Richard Coates died at Colac, Victoria in 1962, aged 77.
If anyone has information they are encouraged to contact the Bacchus Marsh RSL on 5367 1855.