THE name Norma Anne Kearns aged 11 will not be familiar with many Oamaruvians yet she has an important and familiar place in Oamaru's history.
She even has a memorial plaque to honour her.
Norma was from Invercargill and came to Oamaru arriving at 4pm on Friday, December 22, 1950. Within an hour, she was dead.
Norma came with her parents to stay with friends. Shortly after her arrival, she decided to take the family dog for a run. At the Severn St railway crossing, the dog decided to remain on the tracks. Being the dog lover she clearly was, Norma, seeing an approaching express train, dived on the tracks to save the dog, which she successfully did.
However in the process, she was struck by the train receiving a serious injury which resulted in her death within minutes of the crash despite the efforts of a local doctor who happened to be handy.
Her parents became concerned when Norma failed to arrive back for her tea and they were later advised of the accident by neighbours.
On February 23, 1951, the Animal Protection Society based in Christchurch were advised of the accident involving Norma and her dog and decided at one of its meetings that a memorial plaque would be erected in Norma's honour and so it was, right beside the Severn St railway crossing outside the Oamaru Botanical Gardens where it proudly remains to this day set on a raised platform. I am not the only one to know of Norma as, frequently, flowers are placed beside or on top of this memorial I am proud to say.
The inscription reads "She gave her life to save her dog. In memory of Norma Ann Kearns aged 11 years killed by an express train near this spot saving the life of her dog 22nd December 1950 erected by animal lovers & Animals' Protection Society Chch Inc."
At the inquest, the fireman on the engine gave evidence of seeing Norma running on to the line after her dog. She had the dog in her arms and fell back as though she had been struck in the arm by the train. He said the train was travelling at about 15 miles per hour.
A 9-year-old boy witness gave evidence of seeing Norma near the railway line holding on to the dog and seeing her falling backwards from the rails and the dog jumping from her arms.
It is safe to say that she died almost instantly, being the only blessing here.
So tomorrow at about 5pm spare a thought for that little 11-year-old girl Norma Anne Kearns, from Invercargill, (she would be 83 today) who was tragically killed at the Severn St crossing and, as we drive past there on a daily basis, spare another thought for her and her family, wherever they may be, whose Christmases since 1950 were never the same.