A WARRNAMBOOL mother who drowned in the Murray River near Yarrawonga has been remembered as a courageous and passionate campaigner for Parkinson’s Disease awareness, despite her own battle with the debilitating disease.
The body of Julie Donlon, 61, was found in the Murray River just after 2.30pm yesterday, after she was reported missing 24 hours earlier.
Mrs Donlon and her husband Kieran had sold their Warrnambool property and bought a caravan and four-wheel-drive to travel the country. They had been staying at their favoured camping spot at Forges Bend, west of Yarrawonga.
Mrs Donlon was walking their dog alongside the river when she disappeared about 1.30pm on Wednesday. Emergency services were alerted after the dog returned alone to the campsite and Mrs Donlon could not be found or contacted.
“She was a fighter. She always wanted to contribute to our group and help make other people aware of the illness."
Albury police found her body after an extensive search.
Daisy Mason, vice-president of the Warrnambool Parkinson’s Support Group, said Mrs Donlon was a special friend.
“It’s a shock,” Mrs Mason said.
“It’s very sudden and really makes you look at life in a different way.
“We’ll miss her, she has been a great friend, a very special friend.”
Mrs Mason said Mrs Donlon was a passionate member of the support group and, with her husband, was an ambassador for Parkinson’s Victoria.
“She was a fighter. She always wanted to contribute to our group and help make other people aware of the illness,” Mrs Mason said.
“Being an ambassador meant that she and Kieran would go and talk to groups about the disease and if people wanted to know anything they could call them.
“Julie had a lot to live for. They had three children and were on a big adventure after buying a caravan and heading off to spend whatever time they had left together travelling.
“She was a humble member of the community who just went about her business. She had a lot to offer and she will be greatly missed.”
Mrs Donlon’s sister-in-law Patricia Donlon praised her tireless work to raise awareness of her condition. “She faced what she had to with extreme courage,” she said.
Julie Donlon’s husband Kieran rode more than 4000 kilometres from Cairns to Warrnambool in 2011 to raise funds and awareness for research into the degenerative neurological disease.
“The aim was always to bring Parkinson’s to the fore and especially for those younger sufferers of Parkinson’s because it’s often seen as an older person’s disease,” Patricia Donlon said.