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Jenny Petterson Sydney and Port Hacking

About Jenny Petterson

This link is to a fabulous tribute prepared by Pacific Dragons.

ABC’s Australian Story “In the Pink”

Gold medal for Jenny at the Masters Games 2003

We were all devastated with the news of Jenny Petterson’s death on 30 June 2009 – it seems unbelievable that we will not see her smiling face ever again at any of our regattas.

Jenny Petterson embodied the true spirit of Dragons Abreast – she was always there with a smile on her face enjoying every moment and really living life to the full despite breast cancer. Even though Jenny was able to achieve at the elite level of the sport she always remained, along with her sister Jo, a member of Dragons Abreast, happy to paddle in composite teams and share her knowledge.

Jenny was also a willing and inspirational speaker who generously gave of her time to the breast cancer cause.

Many have been inspired by Jenny’s incredible fortitude and courage in the past years and rejoiced in her amazing achievements in representing Australia. Her smile, her gentleness and quiet strength will not be forgotten.

Those who had the pleasure of meeting Jenny & Jo Petterson will be as feeling this news of the loss of Jenny quite acutely. She was someone very special and we feel very blessed to have known Jenny. Our prayers and thoughts are with Jo and Geoff at this difficult time. Geoff has asked that we do not feel sad but remember all the wonderful times we shared with Jenny.

Jenny’s Story

Jenny regularly made presentations to groups. If you would like to read one of her presentations, in which she gives the story of her life since joining Dragons Abreast, please click here.


The True Spirit of the Dragon – a tribute to Jenny, a very special paddler

download printable version

Jenny Petterson was a rare and special person, who became an inspiration to all those who met her and especially to her family and those who knew her throughout dragon boating.

Special in that Jenny fought her personal battle with Breast Cancer with true Aussie grit and determination, without complaint but with a multitude of smiles for over 12 years and showed others how to do the same.

Inspirational through her equally determined efforts to take on Dragon Boating at a high level of commitment and training, encouraging other ‘pink ladies’ to do the same. By leading from the front and never losing her sense of purpose and humour, even in her own darkest days, she helped others to fight their own Breast Cancer demons too.

My personal journey – albeit for afar, in learning about Jenny and her enthusiasm for life and all things Dragon Boating, came via an article from Michele Hanton in 2004, in which she told the story of Jenny’s fight against Breast Cancer. I re-published the article in the IDBF Newsletter in April of that year as it illustrated not only what the Dragon Boat could do to support Breast Cancer sufferers but also what Jenny and the other Pink Paddlers could do and were doing too, for the wider development of Dragon Boat sport.

For the last five years I followed the Dragon Boat career of Jenny and her twin paddling sister Joanne, with interest and admiration and often quoted the involvement of Jenny in our sport as an example of what a determined person with Breast Cancer can do, when they put their mind to it.

To finally meet both Jenny and Jo during the 2008 Club Crew World Championships in Penang and give them a little hug, was the highlight of my trip and one in which no words were needed, just sharing a Dragon Boat moment together was enough.

I genuinely believed, on that day, that Jenny had won her fight with Breast Cancer. Sadly it was not to be, which makes the shock of losing her harder to understand and accept.

Jenny will be greatly missed by her family and all her friends and fellow paddlers but she would not want us to be sad on her behalf but would want us to celebrate her life and be happy that she lived it to the full.

So in closing this tribute to Jenny may I just raise a glass of sparkling Jenny humour and just say – “Good one Jenny ! Great to have known you, keep on paddling for all of us, where-ever you are, for surely a spirit such as yours can never truly die.”
Mike Haslam, IDBF Executive President

Jenny impressed me as a woman with a sense of purpose. I remember you telling me that she was a talented paddler but kept the spirit of Dragons Abreast close to her heart and paddling and breast cancer in perspective. I am sorry to hear of her passing; we have lost a wonderful woman but her legacy lives on with every stroke taken by her teammates and with every woman with breast cancer that realizes there can be a full and active life with this disease. She made a huge difference and it was a privilege to know her.

Don McKenzie

I met Jenny at my first regatta in 2002 and she has been an inspiration to me as with many others since then, as she will continue to be. Dragons Abreast was the reason that Jenny started on the path which took her to international level with dragon boating and she was the reason that so many others who were on the bc path also took it up, finding fulfillment and achievement at whatever level they paddled at. Jenny threw away the rule book and just kept achieving. We all dream of making a difference and Jenny did that, as does Dragons Abreast. My love and thoughts go to Jo.
Pat Hancock, NT

Many of you will have been inspired by Jenny’s incredible fortitude and courage in the past years and rejoice in her amazing achievements in representing Australia. Her smile, her gentleness and quiet strength will not be forgotten. Be sad but be happy that we have been privileged to walk a while with Jenny.
Anna Wellings Booth, ACT

Dragons Abreast Port Lincoln, which is many thousands of kilometres from Jenny’s home base, will be forever touched by her endearing bubbly personality. The impact of Jenny’s presentation at our 2008 Dinner was profound, moving and far reaching.

To Geoff and Jo what an honor and privilege it was to have had the opportunity for Jenny to share her paddling knowledge and expertise with our members.

Jenny encapsulated the true Spirit of the Dragon to which so many of us aspire. People do come and go – others come and stay with us forever, and Jenny was one of those.

Dragons Abreast Port Lincoln thank you both for sharing Jenny with us.
Maxine Barker, Coordinator, & Dragons Abreast Port Lincoln Members

My husband says that what he remembers most about Jenny was that she was always smiling. We met her at the Penrith Olympic course and she and Jo were our backseat paddlers that year, but after that we always saw them as fabulous strokes and sweeps. I remember once at Chinese New Year the twins were making sandwiches for each other, in total unison – spread, fill, slap the top slice on – then swap, though it was exactly the same sandwich! I was totally in awe of Jenny as she achieved so much amidst so much adversity. The last time I saw her was at the Nationals 2009 in Caloundra: a big hug, that amazing smile, and a small story about the further spread of the cancer, but the impression she left me with was that all could be overcome. She was part of the NSW Masters team, and I was gobsmacked with that – I know for sure they don’t give out sympathy seats on that boat, Jenny had earned her place well and truly. We will miss you, Jenny, love to Geoff and Jo, your stalwart partners.
Jan Skorich, ACT

In memory of Jennifer Petterson – an inspirational individual. Our deepest sympathy to her twin sister Joanne. The Van Buerle Family, Qld

A lovely lady – my condolences to her sister and husband.
Neil Davies, NT

When I joined DAA in January 2004, I’d already heard of Jenny and Jo Petterson – “The Twins”. Friends had told me about the Twins and how they met Prof Don McKenzie at DAA’s 5th Anniversary Celebrations during the Australian Master Games in Canberra in October 2003. I didn’t meet the Twins until a little later though, in connection with the 2004 ABC Australian Story, “In the Pink”. It featured the Ord River Marathon, which I’d participated in alongside other Pink Ladies during May 2004, and Jenny’s remarkable story with Breast Cancer, finding her way to Dragons Abreast in 2001 and the world of wonderful friendships, opportunities and her amazing achievements in the sport of dragon boat that followed, despite Breast Cancer. The Twins’ courage and generosity to share their story contributed to the wide success of “In the Pink”, which was the catalyst for the growth of DAA around Australia. As a result, many others affected by Breast Cancer have now also found their way to Dragons Abreast and been inspired to achieve their dreams, despite Breast Cancer.

I’ve always looked forward to DA events and interstate regattas like Sydney’s CNY and the Nationals to be able to catch up with many dragon boating friends from all over but especially Jenny, Geoff and Jo. This year, on the day after Nationals 2009 finished, I enjoyed a lovely few hours with Jenny, Geoff and Jo, just sitting in the sun, looking out over the water in Caloundra. We enjoyed coffees, chatting and laughing, catching up on all the news and just relaxing after the days of hard competition and racing. We were also reminiscing and sharing our wonderful memories from our involvement with DAA and our passion / obsession for dragon boat – various trips, different regattas, our good natured rivalry whether between PDs and BRD or the NSW and Qld State Crews, sharing time together at the World Champs in Sydney in 2007 and how it was quite amazing to think that we were there because of a diagnosis with Breast Cancer, and then, just a week later, spending time together at the Abreast in Australia ‘Celebration of Life’ in Caloundra with Breast Cancer Survivors from around the world. Many of the things I’d not thought for some time so a very special catch up before heading home again after Nationals with hugs, a friendly smile, a wave and a “we’ll catch up next time”.

Jenny shared with me last year that, as her cancer progressed over the past few years, her Doctors were fantastic…. fantastic to help her get over various surgeries and treatments quickly so she could get back in the boat and not miss too many training sessions! No matter what was going on, Jenny was always keen to be out paddling, spending time with Geoff and Jo and her other team mates, working towards the next goal and taking on the next big challenge.

We will all miss Jenny so very much, not just in Dragons Abreast but also across the Australian and international dragon boat community. She will always be remembered with much fondness, eternal gratitude for all she has done for all of us in DAA, great respect for all she achieved, as well as her friendship, her kind and gentle manner, her grace and humility, and, above all, always smiling through it all. I have been lucky to have known Jenny and to have shared a few steps of the journey with her but our thoughts are with Geoff and Jo. Jenny said that you were always her constant source of support and we thank you for all that you did for her.
Lexie Warren , Brisbane

I wish to convey my sympathies to Jo and Geoff and to you all at Dragons Abreast Australia.
Kim Roberts, Port Macquarie NSW