Jan Donnell was happy and relaxed on holiday in Vanuatu.
Jan Donnell was happy and relaxed on holiday in Vanuatu. Images Supplied

Missed mum Jan full of love

JUST like the words of the Alan Jackson song, Remember When, Angelia McGruer will always remember the last time she saw her mother Jan Donnell.

Together with her husband Matt and their three children, the Zilzie family took Jan on her first big holiday, on a cruise to Vanuatu.

Tragically a month later Jan died in a house fire on Christmas Day in Oakey.

Recalling their holiday, the McGruers said they had never seen Jan so happy and relaxed as she was during the seven night cruise.

“We are so glad we did it now,” they said.

Jan had just finished night shift at the Oakey Hospital and was believed to be sleeping when the house was engulfed in flames at 2pm.

She was the only one in the house, as her husband Lindsay and son Chris had travelled to Zilzie to spend Christmas with the McGruer family.

Rostered to work over Christmas, Jan was due to join them two days later.

A fellow nurse at the hospital told Angie that Jan had gone around to all her patients that morning especially to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Jan Edith Donnell (nee Hunter) was born in Mitchell on October 9, 1956.

Her early years were fraught with hardship.

She had a twisted bowel at six months of age and at the age of two lost part of a thumb during a fight over an axe with her brother.

Then age nine she spent several months in hospital after spilling a kettle of boiling water on herself and endured years of skin grafts.

“She was told she would never have kids or walk again.”

But Jan proved doctors wrong, not only walking, but going on to have four children, Christopher, Angelia, Jennifer and James.

She met future husband Lindsay and was married to him by the age of 17.

She devoted her early years to being a stay at home mother, while Lindsay’s career took him away for months at a time.

“Her family was her life.”

When her children had grown up Jan then went on to build her own career.

Working for a few years in aged care, she then took the step to becoming an enrolled nurse.

She completed her studies in 2008 at the age of 51.

“We were all so proud of her.”

“She couldn’t believe she finished it.”

A private person who loved to drink beer mixed with coke, Jan was often heard uttering the word crikey, well before Steve Irwin made it popular.

Casual and carefree, she was never big on possessions, but loved her music, a good book and a challenging crossword.

“She’d open a beer, turn up the wireless and have a one man party.

“No one ever had a bad word to say about her.”

She had seven grandchildren, Callum, Alyssa (dec), Joshua, Kyran, Lachlan, Taylah and Imogen and visited them whenever she could, even when her studies took up a lot of her time.

“She was very dedicated to her grandkids.”

Jan’s funeral was held in Toowoomba on January 8, attended by around 200 people.

The Oakey hospital is holding a memorial service for her on Tuesday and a plaque will be erected in her honour.

Jan’s family is planning a wake in four weeks, to have the big send off she wanted, and will scatter her ashes on the graves of her granddaughter Alyssa and father Teddy.

Jan’s favourite song Remember When was played at her funeral:

We won’t be sad; we’ll be glad

For all the life we’ve had

And we’ll remember when.



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