GWENDA Walker has followed the meteoric basketball career of her cousin Lauren Jackson ever since she first stepped on court.
But despite being one of her biggest fans, the Wantirna resident and her famous family member had never met… until Friday.
Gwenda’s friends Keith and Jenny Slater had helped Gwenda sort through her belongings recently when they discovered boxes full of magazine and newspaper clippings, articles, recorded games and pictures of Lauren all throughout her career.
So as a special gift for the 91-year-old Lauren Jackson super-fan – Keith and Jenny, Melbourne Boomers, Basketball Victoria’s inclusion department and Jackson herself arranged a secret morning tea last week at the State Basketball Centre.
After discovering the family link between Walker and Jackson, they helped set up the occasion and kept it hush-hush.
Thinking she was out to go shopping for the afternoon, Walker instead fulfilled a lifelong dream of meeting her illustrious family member at the State Basketball Centre.
“I’m not on earth yet – I’m still coming down,” Walker said. “That was the biggest surprise – I was going down to shopping at Knox and they were taking me to morning tea.
“This was lovely – I stood beside her once at a big match, but she was being presented and I got down out of the stands and thought “I should get back out of here”.
“Being the only female relative left on the great-grandmother’s side – Jenny, who was my mother’s eldest sister – it’s wonderful to finally meet her.”
Gwenda’s story is as extraordinary in her own right, as she’s a retired Army captain having served throughout World War II and the Korean War.
Jackson was amazed to meet Walker and relive a piece of her family’s heritage she had not heard.
“It was lovely – it’s always nice to meet people who are from your family and especially parts of it that some members have already passed away, so it was nice to hold that legacy and meet those members,” Jackson said. “I think her story is pretty amazing as well – being in the army from right near where my house is.
“Her stories and her family and how they’ve connected to my direct family is lovely.
“She was also a basketball player when she was at school and that’s so cool – it’s fun learning the history and that’s definitely where I got my genes from – that’s for sure.”
Gwenda and her friends were invited to Melbourne Boomers match on Sunday afternoon as special guests on Jackson’s request to cap off the extraordinary week for a deserving and devoted fan.