Deb Read, Sydney

Deb Read was a champion in every way – an outstanding sportswoman, with a magnetic personality, who threw herself into life with unmatched enthusiasm and commitment. She was passionate about her work in the YWCA where she leaves a trail of exceptional achievements which have improved the lives of thousands of women and will keep changing lives for more women in the future. Yet her modesty was such that even her family, back in her native Canada, was only dimly aware of the scope of her enormous contribution to our society.

Deb was also a wonderful role model for other women, showing courage, wisdom, integrity, a strong sense of social justice, an analytical mind and the ability to inspire others to challenge themselves. Not only in her work, but also in her private life, she was truly compassionate and incredibly generous with her time and energies, managing to make everyone feel individual and special. Even when her health was failing she was still upbeat, so whenever you asked how she was doing she would focus instead on what you were up to, or how your paddling was going. With that eveready smile on her face and in her heart she was as inspirational and encouraging as ever.

One of the original members of the first National Dragons Abreast team in Australia in 2000, Deb leapt at the chance to join DASydney when it got off the ground in 2003. A top dragon boater, consistently striving to better her performance, she was thrilled to don the green and gold for Australia in the Women’s Masters crew competing at the World Championships in Shanghai in 2004. When she could no longer paddle, she threw herself into coaching with that same trademark passion and energy. A phenomenal coach and motivator, Deb consistently drew more effort out of us than we knew we had to give – but it was always done with a wicked sense of fun and wonderfully cheeky sense of humour.

Deb lived an extraordinary life, never baulking at the difficulties and always grabbing opportunities with both hands. Her sheer exuberance and zest for living made her seem larger than life and, because she was so much fun, simply being in her company improved your day.

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