There was standing room only at Michelle Hoffman-Tamm's funeral as tributes flowed for a woman whose greatest joy was to help others.
The 51-year-old Rotorua woman's body was found by police in a forest area near Murupara last Friday, 16 days after she left her Phillip St home to visit a friend and never returned. A 44-year-old woman has been charged with assault, with police stating further charges are likely. However at Ms Hoffman-Tamm's final farewell yesterday the focus was on celebrating her generous and kind life, not the way in which she died.
More than 200 people from all walks of life filled the Osborne's Funeral Home Chapel in Rotorua and spilled out into the carpark, where they listened to the service via speakers.
Celebrant Raewyn Hammond described a woman who could give any man a run for his money when it came to her handyman skills and who loved to rough and tumble with her grandchildren.
Ms Hoffman-Tamm's daughter Monique Hoffman-Tamm led the personal tributes to her mother.
"I have to believe that you still exist somewhere, that you still watch me sometimes somehow,'' she said.
About 15 people then shared their memories of Ms Hoffman-Tamm, including family and friends, neighbours, childhood friends and former colleagues, with their stories prompting a mix of tears and laughter.
Her son, Rhys, struggled to hold back tears as he thanked people for their kind words.
"She had a heart of gold ... she was a diamond in the rough,'' he said.
"She will no longer be gone because we will all remember her.''
Many Phillip St residents gave tributes, with one suggesting it should be renamed "Tamm St''.
The street's neighbourhood support member told how Ms Hoffman-Tamm was her second in charge, often keeping watch in the middle of the night.
"She ordered several people out of the street she thought were undesirables,'' she said.
Another neighbour told how Ms Hoffman-Tamm nagged her to be allowed to help fix up her home and soon became one of the most special people she had ever known. She recalled how Ms Hoffman-Tamm had even given her a pair of her own glasses when her eyesight was failing.
"She made me see the world though a different pair of eyes,'' she said.
Yet another Phillip St resident spoke of Ms Hoffman-Tamm's kindness to and acceptance of her two disabled children, saying she never judged anyone.
A man who grew up with her said it had been a terrible time waiting for news, but now he wanted to concentrate on her life.
"She lived with a passion ... she drunk with a passion,'' he said, to much laughter.
A friend recalled how she met Ms Hoffman-Tamm on her first day at Glenholme School in the 1960s, which had led to a lifelong friendship.
"It's one friendship I will always treasure and never be able to replace,'' she said.
The president of the Rotorua Citizen's Club said Ms Hoffman-Tamm had been a blessing to elderly people in her area, helping them out with odd jobs.
He said whenever he saw her, usually dressed in her blue overalls, he would give her the "Maori salute'' of raised eyebrows which she would always return.
The funeral was followed by a private cremation and mourners then gathered at the West End Tavern, where Ms Hoffman-Tamm had been a regular.
Ms Hoffman-Tamm is survived by her partner Inoi, her two children and four grandchildren.