A bravery award has been given posthumously to a Labrador City woman who risked her own safety to save a child's life.

Judy Etsell's family gathered recently to accept an award from the province in honour of their mother's heroic act.

Nineteen years ago, Etsell glanced out the window of her home in Labrador City, and saw a young boy falling through the ice on Quartzite Lake, located behind her house.

Etsell's family said their mother bolted out the door, jumped into the icy water and rescued the boy.

Her son Paul remembers the day well. He said not only was his mother fearful of water — but at the time, she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

"[I] wouldn't expect her to actually go into the water, because she never did like going into the water," said Etsell.

Etsell's brother, Chris, called her brave act an inspiration.

Bravery medal

Despite being in a struggle to save her own life, Judy Etsell jumped into the icy water of Quartzite Lake and rescued a young boy. (CBC)

"Myself, I'm a firefighter with the City of Toronto, and so I pride myself on being able to help people in situations like that, and I feel like I get that from my mother," he said. 

"She was one that would always help other people out. She was involved in a lot of community projects."

Judy Etsell died of cancer a year after the rescue.

Nick McGrath, minister responsible for Labrador Affairs, said the award is rare. 

"I'm quite often in conversation, especially around this time of year when the ice is just starting to form, and people always said, 'Remember Judy Etsell — my God, and what she did to save that young boy's life,'" said McGrath.

Etsell's family calls the award a Christmas surprise, and said they learned of the province's plans to honour her just months ago.

She has also received the St John's Ambulance Award.