The Story of Two Kens

Emotional reunion, 70 years after one Ken saved another from drowning.

In 1951, Ken Gibson was only 9 years old when he saved 18-month-old Ken Beeton from drowning in the Manning River at Taree in Australia. To thank the young boy for his heroic act, the toddler's father gave him his treasured golden service medal that he had been awarded in World War II. ⁠


It was an event not forgotten by either family, but they were not in touch again after that day and for decades Mr Beeton, now aged 70, had hoped to find his rescuer. He knew only the boy's name and that the rescue occurred in the Manning River, behind his family's Royal Hotel at Taree, on the New South Wales Mid North Coast.


The reunion finally came about after Mr Beeton enlisted the help of Janine Roberts, who writes about historical Mid North Coast stories.


Ms Roberts said tracking down Ken Gibson wasn't easy. "It's hard as it's all modern history - this is difficult because of privacy issues - not a lot of records after 1955 are available," she said. Ms Roberts used Trove historical newspapers, old rate records, electoral rolls, white pages directories and social media.


Ms Roberts eventually narrowed her search to three possible men and then put a call out for information on Facebook. "So many different people contributed … and eventually I tracked Ken Gibson down," she said. "I found out his son Dean is a famous pastry chef and chocolatier. So I looked him up and rang him and said: 'Did your dad ever talk about rescuing a young boy?'"


"He said, 'Yes, that's a story in our family'. I had goosebumps, I was so excited. For me it was really rewarding because I know Ken Beeton had been looking for him for so long," she said.


"I want to be able to say thanks, it's all I can say, what do you give to the person who saved your life?" said Beeton. "I might not have been here without him, so I'm saying thank you."⁠


At the meeting, they felt like old buddies and thoroughly enjoyed themselves - and Mr Gibson surprised Mr Beeton by handing back the gold service medal he received all those years ago. "It belongs to you, it belonged to your dad," he said.⁠