Stalwart Ryde community leader Helen James has been honoured in Parliament by Ryde MP Victor Dominello.
Mr Dominello told Parliament Ms James has served as Secretary and President of the local North Ryde Combined Probus Club, a supporter of The Salvation Army and a compassionate carer.
He said: “Helen James is involved in Probus, she fundraises for the Heart Foundation, volunteers for the Salvation Army, helps family members and is an advocate educating people about a disease that is widespread but often goes unnoticed in our community.
“Over the last 12 years Helen has learned much about dementia and in recent years has become increasing active to raise awareness.
“Her husband Gordon James was a successful insurance broker at Lloyds of London and moved to Sydney in 1979, where he started his own insurance broking business.
“Helen met Gordon in 1994 and joined with him in the business until they both retired in 2006.
“It was in that last year of work that Helen detected changes in Gordon and he was diagnosed with Fronto Temporal Dementia with the variants of Semantic and Behavioural Dementia.
If asked, Helen would describe the past 12 years of her life as a Ôdementia journey.Õ
“Gordon was 64 years of age when they received his diagnosis and passed away in February aged 76.
“This debilitating disease, its consequences for her husband and herself are what drives Helen’s advocacy for education about this disease.
“At the beginning she was informed that the dementia affecting Gordon was very rare and progressive and the symptoms would worsen over time.
“She was also told it was the slowest and longest deteriorations of dementia and one of the most challenging to manage.
“Helen was the Secretary of North Ryde Combined Probus Club for the past five years and recently became President of the Club in March.
“The Probus club has 145 members and they organise numerous social outings to encourage friendships and socialisation for retirees in the Ryde Community.
“The Big Heart Appeal is favoured by Helen because her niece was born with major heart complications and her brother died suddenly with heart disease one week prior to his 60th birthday and she involves her neighbours by participating in the annual door knock appeal in her street.
“The Salvation Army in Ryde is active and Helen finds time to help them by supporting their annual fundraising appeal at Top Ryde City Shopping Centre.
“She continues to be a person who gives much to enriching our community.
“I admire Helen, her ability to manage the devastating illness her husband was suffering with such a degree of optimism, resilience, good humour and dignity.
“A person who somehow found time and energy to continue her volunteering, and voluntary executive roles during this time and I applaud her efforts to raise awareness regarding dementia in our community and commend her as a constituent who is an example to us all.”