Family recalls 'inseparable' MH17 couple
The family of an ex-pat New Zealander who died on flight MH17 has spoken of their loss.
Mary Menke, who was born near Christchurch, and her husband Gerry were on their way home to Australia after celebrating his 70th birthday in France when their Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine.
"They will be remembered by everyone who knew them for the vivacity and spirit with which they lived," their family said in a statement.
Mary, nee Bignell, was from rural Christchurch but was working at an Australian pub on a working holiday when she met Gerry.
"She cancelled her travel plans and they rarely spent a day apart from that moment further."
The family said the two were "inseparable" and leave behind four children and five grandsons.
"Their loss is felt as extensively as it is deeply."
Gerry Menke was born in the Netherlands but immigrated to Australia in 1953.
Gerry, then 13, took to Australia "like a duck to water" becoming an avid spear fisherman and waterman. His adventures took him from their family home in Sydney down the coast where he eventually settled in Mallacoota, Victoria.
The two were married in New Zealand after which they travelled extensively around the world - exploring the African wilderness, diving with whale sharks off Ningaloo, and traversing the jungles of Borneo.
At their home in Mallacoota, Mary was active in the local music scene, including teaching piano and playing for the kinder kids.
"Mary was a woman as colourful in spirit as she was in appearance. Her easy smile and laugh were as bright as the shock of blonde curls piled on her head. Always the centre of attention and the life of the party, you could hear her coming long before you could see her."
Mary and Gerry were central figures in the large and closely-knit extended family, the statement said.
In the weeks before the accident, Mary and Gerry had been surrounded by friends and a large number of family to celebrate Gerry's 70th birthday in France.
"Those in attendance - spanning three generations and the majority having travelled from Australia - had never seen them happier."
They were returning to Mallacoota when tragedy struck.
Mary and Gerry are survived by Sara, Brett, Anna, Paul and their extended families.
"The family sends their deepest condolences to those affected by the tragedy."