A Russell identity known as "the Duchess of the Duke of Marlborough" has died aged 88.

Dell Gifford bought the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel on the Russell waterfront with two business partners in 1993.

She later bought them out and carried out an extensive renovation, changing the hotel from what she described as "a place where men gathered to tell fishing tales'' to a more elegant establishment geared to the demands of guests.

In 2002, when she was 72, she sold the hotel to Frenchman Arnauld Kindt and went on to split her time between Auckland and the Dordogne region in France.

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She died at North Shore Hospital on September 13. She is survived by a sister, three daughters, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A service celebrating her life will be held at the All Souls Chapel at Purewa Cemetery in Meadowbank, Auckland, at 1pm tomorrow followed by private cremation.

The family has asked guests to wear bright colours to reflect her vibrant personality.