Months before she died, Connie Johnson came up with what she called a “perfect” idea: to break the record for the “longest line of coins” (75.4km) and raise $200,000 in the process.
Instead of a long line, however, the coins—5c pieces—would be placed in a giant heart at Canberra’s Lyneham netball courts.
The Big Heart Project, which was filmed in timelapse by Canberra’s science and tech centre Questacon, broke the record on May 10 and raised more than $2 million.
“She came to Questacon for a meeting and was almost doubled over in pain at one point, and [brother] Sam was supporting her arm,” the centre’s deputy director, Kate Driver, tells WHO. “But her gaze was strong and determined. Her determination to live and live fully took your breath away.”
Connie died on Sept. 8 in a hospice in Canberra at age 40, with her husband, Mike, 39, her boys Willoughby, 11, and Hamilton, 9, and her Gold Logie–winning brother, Samuel Johnson, by her side.
It was Sam, 39, who helped make Connie a household name when the actor embarked on his now famous 16,000km unicycle ride around Australia in 2013, raising more than $1 million for cancer research.
The idea for the ride—and the siblings' Love Your Sister charity—came about through a pledge Connie made when she found out she was terminal with breast cancer.
“Sam asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and I said I wanted to prevent other young mums from having to say goodbye to their children,” Connie told WHO in 2013. “Because that is ultimately the hardest thing for me.”
Her death came the day after she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove for her “inspirational” service to those with breast cancer and for encouraging women to undergo regular screening.
“I was so glad they reached her on time—literally within hours,” her friend Marie Ramos, a photographer who aims to raise $100,000 for Love Your Sister through a special art project, tells WHO. “Sam said her eyes were dancing like when she was a child.”
The next day, at Calvary Clare Holland House hospice her final moments were “beautiful,” wrote Sam. “We laughed, we cried, we sang stupid songs from our childhood to her, which she loved (mostly!). She went so richly, and with such grace.”
For more on Connie’s life and legacy, pick up a copy of WHO, on sale now.
For information on Marie Ramos's charity visit: marieramosphotography.com.au