A Tauranga teacher who had a "big impact on many lives" has been remembered as a great mum, friend and teacher.
Sue Walmsley died in a three-vehicle accident on the Tauranga Eastern Link almost two weeks ago. Yesterday the community gathered to farewell her in a moving ceremony at the Olive Tree Cottage in Pyes Pā.
It was standing room only as family, friends, and other wellwishers packed into the venue, and, although the mood was quiet, it was full of love. There was a real sense of community loss shared by those who came to support Walmsley's husband of 32 years, Roy, and their children, Niall, 31, and Gabby, 29.
She was described by friends and family as a "great mum, great friend, and great teacher".
Celebrant Rose White opened the ceremony by describing Walmsley from conversations she had with Walmsley's family.
There were two things she had gained from those conversations, she said. "There was so much you could say about her" but mostly people said Walmsley had been a "very kind person" and "always smiling".
Blake Carlin, principal of Pyes Pā School, said he was "honoured" to give Walmsley's eulogy. Walmsley was the deputy principal of the school.
Looking around the room, he said it was "obvious how well-known and widely respected she was".
She was a teacher who stayed on top of the current trends in education, he said, and was keen to problem-solve whenever she could.
"She was particularly passionate about her role as the school's special needs co-ordinator."
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The success of the school's special-needs programme was "a real testament to Sue and her character", he said.
She "didn't sweat the small stuff", and made a "big impact on many lives" over her career, throughout which she taught at three Tauranga schools - Tauranga South School (now Gate Pā School), Ōmōkoroa Point School, and Pyes Pā School.
"I'm grateful to have the chance to work with such a dedicated educator."
Carlin said while Walmsley could be a private person at times, "those who knew her well say she had a great sense of humour and could be quite cheeky".
"She could tell a great story, and always got a laugh out of her colleagues," he said.
"We will miss you, Sue, rest in peace."
In a statement from a friend and Ōmōkoroa Point School colleague, Vicki Knell, read out by the celebrant, Knell said Walmsley loved to laugh.
"A whingeing Pom, she certainly was not. Her wicked and naughty sense of humour was what made her such an awesome colleague."
After the speeches, a montage of photographs taken over Walmsley's career was shown, with Simply Red's song The World and You Tonight playing alongside.
There was laughter throughout the montage, showing how well-loved Walmsley was, and, as Walmsley's casket was carried down the garden behind the venue towards the hearse, Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven played.
To wrap up the ceremony, everyone was handed a coloured balloon.
As the hearse drove away, they were released as one - the children present gasping with joy as they floated away.
A fitting tribute to one who had brought joy to so many throughout her life.