The family and friends of a beloved Pyes Pa School deputy principal say her tragic death has left them heartbroken.
Susan Joyce Walmsley, 64, known as Sue, died in hospital on February 8 after a three-vehicle accident on the Tauranga Eastern Link road about 7am on February 5.
A celebration of her life will be held this afternoon but tributes are already flowing in from those who knew her.
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Her heartbroken husband Roy Walmsley, 62, said he and his son Niall, 31, and daughter Gabby, 29, were '"devastated" and still trying to come to terms with Sue's death.
"It still feels surreal," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
Sue is also survived by her younger sister Fiona Long (nee Caley) who lives in England.
Roy said he and his family were taking comfort from all the wonderful tributes to their much-loved wife and mother and support from the school and wider community.
"The outpouring of grief and the support we have received has been incredible. I did not realise Sue had touched the lives and hearts of so many people.
"Being a teacher was Sue's passion in life," he said.
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The couple, who were married for more than 32 years and together almost 40, relocated to Tauranga from Windermere in the Lakes District of Cumbria, England in 1996.
Sue worked at Tauranga South School (now Gate Pā School) then Ōmokoroa Point School before joining the teaching staff at Pyes Pa School in 2001.
The couple were in the process of building a home for their retirement on a section in the foothills south of Matata.
Sue was on her way to Pyes Pa School from the section when the accident happened.
Roy said his wife had many interests but her two other passions were skiing and sailing.
The couple were longstanding members of the Tauranga Yachting Club. Roy established the Bay of Plenty Sailing Academy Trust in 2003/04.
Janet Bilbe, a close friend and former colleague who retired from Pyes Pa School last year, said Sue's death was "heartbreaking".
Bilbe said she was the Batman to Sue's Robin.
"We worked together for 20 years, and we were great friends.
"If you were lucky to have Sue as a friend you were very, very blessed and it was indeed a blessing and a privilege to count myself among her friends.
"She had a wicked sense of humour, which she would often use when any of the male teachers were getting a bit cheeky to bring them back in line," she said.
She remembered Sue's "great laugh".
"As a teacher, Sue never got cross. If one of the children in her class was causing a bit of a ruckus, she would just grin and laugh to help turn them around.
"She always found a way into everybody's heart," Bilbe said.
"Sue was a devoted wife and mother and a passionate educator. She always saw the good in others and you could always count on her support. She was a superb friend and colleague, and a great supporter and mentor to many other people.
The school community had lost "a part of their heart" and Tauranga and the world was "a lesser place without Sue in it", a tearful Bilbe said.
A remembrance memorial board was set up at the school, and Sue's favourite hat has been hung on a tree near her classroom, a carpet of floral tributes beneath.
Pyes Pa School principal Blake Carlin and Board of Trustees chairman Matt Jackson said in a joint statement Sue's death was a "huge blow" to the entire school community.
"Sue had been at our school since 2001 and she served on our Board of Trustees for 13 of those years as a staff representative. She was also acting principal on three occasions.
"As one of our long-serving and influential deputy principals, she will be remembered for the positive influence she had on the school and the Pyes Pa community."
Sue championed many positive programmes within the school, such as the Cool Schools, Peer Mediators and Positive Behaviour for Learning.
She also worked with students with extra learning needs alongside their whānau and staff, and was committed to "inspiring and empowering these students".
"Sue was a large part of the furniture of Pyes Pā School for a long time and that has been evident through all the messages and tributes conveyed to our school.
"Her positive influence on the school and community will be extremely hard to replace. "
Vicki Knell, principal of Omokoroa Point School, remembered Sue as a "dedicated teacher who was loved by the children in her classes and contributed much to the culture of Omokoroa Point".
"She was a straight-talking, highly organised, passionate and a hard-working, roll your sleeves up and get stuck in person, which for a small school is gold.
"Sue was fun and if she was the organiser, we all knew it was going to be a great day.
"We were privileged to have worked with her and are the richer for having known her. Our thoughts and love are with Roy, Niall and Gaby."
A celebration of Sue's life will be held at Olive Tree Cottage in Pyes Pa from 1pm today.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the TECT Rescue Helicopter service via Givealittle.