By Martie Thompson

Japke (pronounced “Yapka”) Gosselin grew up in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her father was a harbormaster and the family lived on a houseboat in the harbor. When she was 12, her doctor recommended she start swimming and by the age of 13, she qualified for the national competition. She represented her country in the Rome Olympic Games when she was only 16 years old; she swam the 100m backstroke. Within a few years, Gosselin said she felt she wanted to have a normal life, away from competitive swimming and since her father had always wanted to go to the United States, that’s where she went. She settled in with an aunt and uncle in Oak Harbor, Wash. before moving to Seattle on her next adventure. She worked as a swim instructor for awhile, before learning that she could make more money as a strolling musician, playing the accordion.

Ultimately, she met her husband, John and they both began careers in real estate in suburban Seattle before retiring and moving to Murabella with their grown daughter and two grandsons in 2014. Gosselin is also a breast cancer survivor. She volunteers with Helping Hands and cooks dinner one night per month for the boys in St. Francis House in St. Augustine.

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1) How did you come to live in Murabella?

Our daughter, Melanie, and her two sons lived with us in Kent, outside Seattle. She was transferred with her job to this area and my husband and I decided to retire and make the move too. We have lived multi-generationally for more than 10 years now.

2) What do you like most about living in Murabella?

We like living here. The schools are great for our grandsons, who are now 16 and 14. And we usually wake up with sunshine each day, which we like!

3) What can you tell us about your breast cancer diagnosis?

In 2004, I fell and needed a hip replacement. I told my doctor then and even a few months later that something wasn’t right with my right breast. The doctor checked and said it was dense breast tissue, but when I finally had an ultrasound in early 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and chemo and radiation. I was cancer-free for seven years, until 2012 when I found a lump on my left breast. So I had another mastectomy and then had to have my thyroid removed as well. But I’m fine! You have to have a good attitude about all this to survive.

4) What did you do to “give back” after your diagnosis?

My husband and I felt we had to do something after my first diagnosis. I had received a very inspiring greeting card from a friend that really helped me. I still have the card and we used it as a model to make care packages for women going through chemo. We bought pretty little pink bags and filled them with useful items including the verbiage from the inspirational greeting card and then brought them to the same place I had my chemo.

5) How did you get involved with Helping Hands and what do you enjoy about it?

When I was a realtor in Washington back in the late 1980s, a friend and I started sharing a Costco card. She moved around and we remained in touch and continued sharing the card. When we moved to Murabella, I knew she lived in the St. Augustine area and so we got back in touch. She was a member of Helping Hands and introduced me to the group. How small a world is that?

I like volunteering with Helping Hands because everyone just shows up and then does good work. We have even started making my little pink bags for women undergoing chemo and taking them to area oncologists. I have made a lot of friends in this group.


Photo courtesy Japke Gosselin

Japke Gosselin

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