It?s an issue of speed that a family grieves
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
BABY Paris Santacaterina will never get to know her bubbly, kind and devoted great grandmother.
Leila Packham, 75, died on Wednesday after being hit by a ute while trying to cross the Bruxner Highway outside her Wollongbar home.
Mrs Packham had been campaigning for five years to make the stretch of road safer; to have the speed limit reduced from 100km/h to 80km/h.
Her four children, 10 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren are now continuing the fight by sign-posting the road with messages including: 'Slow down, our grandma died here'.
Kelly Koolen, 27, of Victoria, said she could not let her grandmother's death be in vain.
"We want to carry on what she believed in because it's taken her life," she said.
"I want people to know we're hurting because of this and I don't want other families to have to feel the same pain."
Mrs Packham started a petition in 2000 to have a 100km/h sign moved away from homes along the highway, 250 metres to the west.
The Roads and Traffic Authority denied the request, saying the speed limit was appropriate because the section of road was in a rural area.
Instead, the RTA installed a speed camera at Marom Creek in 2003 to address the concerns of Wollongbar residents.
Mrs Packham's daughter Kerry Herrod, of Queensland, said she had always worried about her parents living on such a busy stretch of road.
"We didn't like it from the word go, but mum fell in love with the house" she said.
"She thought it wouldn't be a problem when they bought it six years ago because the Alstonville bypass was going in soon.
"All she ever worried about were other people and she was afraid a child might be killed outside. We never thought it would happen to her."
Family members from three states yesterday gathered together in Wollongbar to remember Mrs Packham and support her husband Neville, who they say is devastated.
"It's like Dad has lost his right arm," said Kerry.
"They met when they were 10 at school in Lismore and they've been together since they were 13.
"Their 55th wedding anniversary would have been in August."
Mrs Packham was well known throughout the region, particularly after establishing the Tibouchina Club for elderly residents of Alstonville.
"It was a place for the oldies to get together one day a week. Mum would drive around and pick them all up from their homes for a day out," said her son Garry Packham, of Ballina.
"It's just the type of person she was. She used to visit people in hospital who had no-one else to visit them.
"She didn't want anyone to be lonely."
Her family also spoke of Mrs Packham's love of sewing, gardening, church and lawn bowls.
On the morning she died, she was waiting for a lift to Kyogle to play in a bowls tournament.
Her team members have been asked to wear their bowls uniform to her funeral.
"She was very active and loved her lawn bowls," said Kerry.
"I had trouble keeping up with her because she was so fit and walked so fast, you wouldn't have thought she was a 75 year old."
However, above all, Mrs Packham will be remembered for the dedication she had to her family.
"Nothing was too much for her when it came to her kids and grandkids," said Kerry.
"She'd just been up to Queensland for her youngest granddaughter's 21st and she cooked non-stop for two days.
"She loved us all so much."
Mrs Packham's funeral will be held on Monday at the Alstonville Uniting Church from 11am.
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