PARENTS at a nursery which wanted a veteran to be guest of honour for the opening of their memorial garden found their man – after a kind Advertiser reader came forward to help.
Louisa Middleweek, head of the PTA at Castle Day Nursery in Sanderstead, launched an appeal last week for a veteran to honour the opening of the garden.
Within hours of the paper hitting the shops, Louisa was contacted by Croydon's Deputy Lieutenant Colonel Ian McRobbie, who knew just the man to fit the bill.
He put the PTA in touch with 94-year-old Burt Smith, a lifetime Sanderstead resident, who helped storm the beaches on D-Day.
Burt cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the garden at the village's memorial hall on Saturday and was the centre of attention at the summer fayre afterwards.
Louisa was amazed with the quick response to her appeal.
"It was always going to be a long shot, but we were absolutely delighted," she said.
"We had a great day and having Burt there to open the garden made it very special.
"After he cut the ribbon all the children ran past to go and have fun."
Louisa said she sought out a veteran because the hall was built to honour those who died in the First World War.
She added: "Burt was absolutely great, chatting to everyone.
"He had fascinating stories to tell and he was showing the young children his medals."
Burt, who lives on his own after his wife passed away recently, said he particularly enjoyed opening the garden as his grandfather had been a gardener.
Now Louisa intends to invite him to all the PTA's future events and one of the garden's flower pot men has even been named 'Burt' in his honour.
Around 300 people attended the opening and fayre, helping to raise £1,020 for the nursery.
"We didn't expect to raise that much," said Louisa. "Parents have been so kind and done so much. Everyone's been doing something to help.
"The staff are so enthusiastic and have been so behind the fayre."