A dinner marking the 50th anniversary of Goulburn's Cystic Fibrosis (CF) branch this month will be tinged with sadness, following Sheridan Wood's passing.
The annual 65 Roses dinner, raising awareness and funds for research into the disorder, will pay special tribute to the tireless advocate, who passed away aged 40 on Tuesday, May 4.
Mrs Wood, nee Mowle, suffered the condition from birth but never let it define her or hold her back, her family said. At the same time, she followed in her mother, Marilyn's footsteps, and worked hard to raise awareness of and funds for CF research. She served as secretary of the local branch for many years and president for four years until her passing.
"She was still making decisions (in her final days) and was absolutely adamant that the 65 Roses dinner and ball go ahead on May 29," her husband Laurence said.
"She was so proud of what the CF committee could do for the community and to bring awareness."
Her death coincides with Cystic Fibrosis awareness month.
Laurence fondly recalled encountering his former work colleague in the shopping mall selling raffle tickets for the branch in 2006. They had worked together at Southern Ford in the early 2000s - she in the office and Laurence as a mechanic.
"I had my eye on the first prize - a Raiders jersey," he said.
Sheridan fought one hell of a battle at the same time living a great life.Sue Burgess
He won third prize but rekindled a friendship that blossomed into romance. The couple married at Marsden Weir in 2014.
"They were the best years of my life and brought me so much happiness," Laurence said.
CF is an inherited life-threatening disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system. As a child, Sheridan took medication daily, had physiotherapy for her lungs and used a nebulliser purchased by the CF branch. There was hardly a year without hospitalisation for a chest infection or other condition, her sister, Stephanie said.
Regardless, she completed her education at Sts Peter and Paul's Primary School and Marian College. Her parents, the late Peter and Marilyn Mowle, did everything to support her. So too did older siblings Nick, Stephanie and Melissa. Marilyn was involved in the CF branch for some 30 years, many of those as president. Sheridan's grandmother, Esme Warburton and husband Frank were also hardworking fundraisers and advocates.
"As a sister, Sheri was just a lot of fun to be around and had a great sense of humour," Stephanie said.
"...Throughout her illness she remained positive and never let it define her. But she also had a passion for raising funds and awareness for CF because she knew the difference it could make to lives."
Her lung function deteriorated and in 2000 Sheridan underwent a transplant that gave her "a new lease on life."
In typical style she started work at Goulpress Printers just months later, then moved to Southern Ford, followed by Aimee's Flower Shop. Harnessing her love of animals, she volunteered for the RSPCA and at Goulburn Wetlands, which her father was instrumental in starting.
Adventures with her family growing up whet her appetite for travel, both domestic and overseas. With Laurence she also enjoyed camper van trips in Australia and "loved exploring," Stephanie said.
Sue Burgess, who was lifelong friends with Marilyn, and served on the CF committee, said Sheridan recovered from health setbacks many times. She believed she was the oldest living CF sufferer in the region.
"She was phenomenal," she said.
"Sheridan fought one hell of a battle at the same time living a great life. She was lionhearted and iconic and that family was amazing."
Marilyn's death at 65 in 2013 and Peter's two years later hit the family hard. Sheridan continued her volunteer work but transplant rejection, the constant "balancing act" with medication and a chest infection finally deteriorated her lung capacity. She spent more than three weeks in Sydney's Saint Vincent's Hospital before returning to Goulburn for palliative care in her last 10 days, at her request.
"To see her in hospital was amazing," Stephanie said.
"She endured it without complaint and the medical staff were in awe of her strength."
The family felt blessed to have celebrated Sheridan's 40th birthday in March. Stephanie said she would remember her sister's loving, fun and cheeky ways as a child, great sense of adventure and inspirational attitude. It resonated with her nephews and nieces, who loved spending time with her.
Laurence said his wife "took it on the chin" after being told doctors could do no more for her.
"She didn't complain but knew she'd lived a great life. She didn't want to leave but was at peace," he said.
"...After we married we had talked about growing old together. I thought I was the luckiest man alive. She was my soul mate and I'll miss her every minute."
Sheridan is survived by Laurence and his son, Matthew, her brother, Nick and wife Maria, Stephanie and husband, Henry Tunks, and sister Melissa and husband, Matthew Charnock. She was an adored auntie to Sonny, Zander, Madison, Raphael, Theodore, Annabelle and Harrison.
Her funeral service will be held at Craigs Hill crematorium at 11am on Thursday, May 13. In lieu of flowers, donations to Cystic Fibrosis Goulburn and District are requested.
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