Dead boy’s mural to return
A respite home that painted over a disabled teenager’s memorial mural will return it to its original state.
NZ Care Disability, owners of Palmerston North’s Woburn Family Support Centre, came under fire when Stuff reported Nathan Booker had been removed from his own memorial mural.
Nathan, 15, had a profound intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, spastic quadriplegia and epilepsy. He was also paralysed on the left side of his body and had a mental age of 6 months.
He drowned when his carer left him in the bath alone at Woburn Family Support Centre in Palmerston North on January 10, 2014. Nathan would have turned 22 this year.
His mother Angela Middlemiss, 45, was visited by NZ
Care Disability staff on Tuesday to discuss why Nathan’s name and face had been painted out.
She expected more excuses, but they didn’t hesitate to ‘‘wave the white flag’’ and own the mistake.
‘‘I thought we were going to have a fight on our hands ... [but] she said, ‘look, there’s no excuses. We’re not going to make any. How can we fix it?’
‘‘I get the impression they weren’t aware of it. I’m glad they’re going to reinstate it. It shouldn’t have happened, but they’re trying to fix it.
‘‘I know it’s not my building and not my decision what happens to it, but to me it was a comfort and a reminder of how dangerous it can be [for disabled people in respite care].’’
Former owners of the home, Idea Services, commissioned a mural designed by Middlemiss as a tribute to Nathan’s life.
The painting, in the respite home’s courtyard, celebrated everything he loved – a fire truck, sunflowers and balloons spelling his name, with Nathan stepping out of his wheelchair and walking into the stars at the end of a path.
But when visiting the mural with her family just before New Year’s, Middlemiss said it was a ‘‘kick in the guts’’ to find Nathan’s name had been painted
over with additional balloons and the image of him expunged.
‘‘If I’d known they were going to do that I wouldn’t have been happy about it, but I would have gone down there quickly with family and taken some more pictures.’’
NZ Care Disability confirmed the company was aware of Nathan’s story when speaking with Middlemiss, despite previous claims it was ‘‘not aware of the significance of the mural before we worked with a local school on a community-based project that involved the mural’’.
NZ Care Disability now says it will reinstate the mural and commission a smaller canvas of the painting so there will always be a picture of Nathan’s tribute for the family, Middlemiss said.
‘‘The understanding that I’ve got is someone made the decision that’s not there any more. I think it was just somebody that decided to paint over it without asking.
‘‘They’re going to find the artist or bring in another person if they can’t find him. But saying it and doing it are two different things.’’
Healthcare NZ, NZ Care Disability’s parent company, was approached for comment.
Angela Middlemiss stands in front of the mural for her dead son Nathan Booker, as it used to look, at the Woburn Family Support Centre.
Nathan Booker’s memorial mural is to be reinstated after he was painted out of it by the respite home in which he died.
Angela Middlemiss, mother of Nathan Booker, who drowned at the respite centre in 2014, is glad the mural will be fixed.