Hervey Bay's Ronda Cook, at the old wishing well at Parraweena in Point Vernon, will be remembered fondly for caring nature and feisty attitude.
Hervey Bay's Ronda Cook, at the old wishing well at Parraweena in Point Vernon, will be remembered fondly for caring nature and feisty attitude. Karleila Thomsen

Campaigner for beloved Bay will be remembered

RONDA Cook will be remembered as one of the Fraser Coast's most passionate and colourful characters, and a tireless campaigner for environmental causes.

Born to Harold and Rona Gehrig on December 30, 1929, at Albury, New South Wales, she died on April 11 aged 84.

She is fondly remembered by not only her family, but the many friends who loved her for her deeply caring nature and feisty attitude.

Her friend Bev Cornwell describes her as an "outspoken lady who stood up for all she believed in, be it the down trodden, the environment or any cause that she cared deeply about.

She moved to Hervey Bay in the 1950s with her husband Keith and their growing family, farming pineapples at Urraween before moving to Gatakers Bay.

Previous owners of their property had started to hand feed rainbow lorikeets daily and the Cooks continued this tradition and it soon became a very popular tourist attraction - Parraweena Bird Sanctuary.

As Ronda's family of six grew, her interests extended outside the home and she served two terms as a councillor from 1976 to 1982.

She was passionate about conserving the beauty and pristine nature of Hervey Bay, particularly the trees that lined the foreshore.

Bev describes Ronda as "Hervey Bay's one and only true blue greenie" who stood in front of trees to protect them from tractors.

When Ronda said "over my dead body" she literally meant it, recalls another friend, John Sinclair, with whom she helped found Fraser Island Defenders Organisation.

"She climbed some of those trees and sat there until the threat of the bulldozers was removed," he said.

"Ronda Cook, Mary Hansen and Freda Goodsell were incredible stalwarts who never wavered in the face of the formidable opposition. However, Ronda managed to do this while occupied with family and her dedication to Aboriginal advancement. She was a stalwart for the Butchulla as well."

Ronda campaigned tirelessly with Shirley Jones during the 1980s to stop the high rise building limit exceeding three storeys, canvassing shopping centres gaining signatures.

In 1982, Ronda and Freda Goodsell - both grandmothers - decided they shouldn't sit in Hervey Bay while the Franklin River in Tasmania was at imminent risk of flooding.

They went to Tasmania, where they endured incredible discomfort until they were arrested for supporting the blockade on the Gordon River. But they were proven right and played their part in letting the Franklin remain free.

She was also a leader of the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council.

Ronda loved dancing, as did her late husband Keith, and together they regularly swept the floor.

She was small with an energy and drive that was the envy of many and that drive and commitment will be sadly missed in the community.

She died peacefully at Kirami, Point Vernon, the beloved wife of Keith (deceased); loved mother of John, Gail (deceasedd), Peter, Linda, Debra and Michael.



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