A New South Wales mother who drowned saving one of her children is being remembered as a trailblazing advocate for the deaf community.
- Leonie Jackson died in January at Congo Beach after saving her son in from a rip
- She was celebrating her 50th birthday on the NSW South Coast
- Close friends and family described her as a "trailblazer" to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community
Leonie Jackson and her 10-year-old son got caught in a rip at Congo Beach, south of Moruya, on Sunday, January 17.
A nearby surfer brought the pair to shore where bystanders and paramedics carried out CPR on Ms Jackson, but she could not be revived.
Close friends and family who recently held a memorial service at Congo Beach are only now able to pay tribute to her life and work.
"It's just been shattering," Tony Abrahams said.
Ms Jackson was marking her 50th birthday with friends in a three-day celebration at Mr Abrahams' home at Congo.
"I'd never seen her happier than on the day she died," Mr Abrahams said.
"Here is this beautiful place where we shared such a wonderful celebration.
"It's also the scene of the ultimate sacrifice of a mother swimming out and saving her son and keeping him afloat for several minutes that allowed him to get his breath and to be saved."
Ms Jackson was the first deaf chief executive of the Deaf Society.
Before that she worked with Mr Abrahams at captioning company Ai-Media to provide live captions for deaf students in classrooms.
She also held positions at the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and established a bilingual signing education program for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
She was appointed chair of the organising committee for the 2022 Australian Deaf Games.
Ms Jackson was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2006 to explore using real-time captioning or speech-to-text technology for deaf students.
'She was a trailblazer'
Her funeral service was made public online due to her profound impact on the deaf and hearing-impaired community.
"She was a trailblazer — she was a hero," Mr Abrahams said.
Close friends and family held a memorial service at Congo Beach last month.
Mr Abrahams only moved to Congo the Christmas prior to Ms Jackson's death, but said his grief had been eased somewhat thanks to the support of locals.
"It's been made so much easier by the warmth, care and support of the local Congo community and the broader deaf and hard-of-hearing community as well, who've just rallied in support of the boys who lost their mother at such a young age," he said.
"The entire community is mourning her loss, but also committed to working for that legacy and vision of equality of access for everyone."