On Friday 24th October 2008, Members of Dragons Abreast Mackay, Mackay Dragon Boat Club, Away BC and Mackay Surf Life Saving Club gathered together with family and friends of Maria Kelley for her final farewell. The service reflected her life. Full of fun, music, adventure and many, many, smiles.
At Maria’s request, friend and guide Ven Namdag (Buddhist nun), conducted the celebration. September 2003 Maria (39) was diagnosed with breast cancer whilst training for her Bronze Medallion with the Mackay Surf Life Saving Club.
Following treatment, Maria took up the cause of breast cancer awareness and support and ran with it. Everything went pink from toaster to toothpicks. Instrumental in getting the Young Women’s Network up and running in Mackay (now known as Away B.C.) Maria supported many friends fighting their own battle.
Undaunted by diagnosis and treatment, Maria completed her nursing training working at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital.
In July 2005 Maria and her husband Marty became founding members of Dragons Abreast Mackay. The couple were a driving force, with Maria holding the official position of merchandising officer and Marty enthusiastically supporting her and the club in its every endeavour. They were dedicated to the cause of the Dragons Abreast movement.
Digging in the paddle, taking up the sweep oar, Maria became passionate about the sport of dragon boating and encouraged all members to do the same. Three years from her initial diagnosis Maria was given the devastating news that her cancer had spread, making her even more determined to live life to the full.
Maria participated in DAA events including Chinese New Year Sydney 2007 & 2008 and Abreast in Australia, Caloundra 2007. In these two years she trekked in the Arizona desert with the Navaho Indians, joined forces with the “bikies” riding her own Honda VT750 motorbike, participated annually in Relay for Life, attended weekly Yoga class, monthly meetings of the Mackay Lymphoedema Support Group and learned to Scrapbook.
Struggling with illness and continuous treatment she supported her family as wife and mother, and assisted Marty in the establishment of Mackay Dragon Boat Club. Only a few weeks before her death, Maria was paddling and sweeping for the club with more enthusiasm for the sport than ever inspiring many “healthy” paddlers.
Born in Portugal, raised and married in Adelaide, the family settled into the Mackay community in 1999. Maria was passionate about all she attempted in her life. With compassion and genuine caring for others she was an extremely social soul, who loved to “do lunch” dine out and dance. Her love of people and popular music ensured a fun time in her company.
Living on in her son Matt (23) and her girls Kirstin (16) and Alana (13), she is missed by many.
By Liz Spring