A "happy and healthy" Kiwi woman working as a teacher in Brunei has died unexpectedly in her sleep.

Frances Keenan, 35, has been described as a "ray of sunshine" and dedicated mother and wife by those who knew her.

She was living with her husband Simon and their daughter Clementine in the tiny nation's capital, Bandar Seri Begawar.

Her funeral was held last month at St Ronan's Church in Wellington - where Mrs Keenan's family lives and where the couple had lived before moving overseas in 2011.


A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said the New Zealand High Commission in Kuala Lumpur told the Daily Post it provided consular assistance to next of kin.

The jet-setting couple went to Otago University together before moving to the capital where Mrs Keenan worked as a Year Five teacher at Paraparaumu Beach School.

In Brunei, Mr Keenan had been working as the head of the business and hospitality department at the Laksamana College of Business.

His wife taught English at schools run by CfBT Education Services.

Bud Chapman, welfare officer for the company, told the Daily Post from Brunei her school was in shock.

"Clearly she had made a major impact on her school. That was evident as the teachers took a long time to say goodbye to her, in the Muslim way, which was wonderful to see."

He recalled taking her to hospital when she had injured her knee.

"She was a ray of sunshine, even when she was in pain," said Chapman, a former Kiwi firefighter.


"She was a pleasure to be around."

The human resources manager for the company, Farina Eussof Leow, said Mrs Keenan first worked at SM Masin, a rural secondary school where she specialised in teaching upper secondary exam classes.

After three years, she transferred to SR DRHMJ Kiarong, an urban primary school to return to primary teaching where her passion lay.

"The students loved coming to her English classes and were always cheerful, smiling and enthusiastic about learning. Fran was a greatly admired and loved teacher, friend and colleague."

Mrs Keenan's father, who lives in Wellington, said Mr Keenan was in Rotorua this week but didn't want to comment further about his daughter as "it's all been said".

Mr Keenan's Facebook page lists him as being from Rotorua.

A friend of the couple, Bevan Wilson, has started a Givealittle page for Mr Keenan and Clementine.

"Happy and healthy, with Fran and Simon expecting to bring little Clementine a little brother or sister into the world in the near future, life threw this family the ultimate, utterly tragic and unexpected form of curve ball no one deserves which has turned lives upside down forever," he wrote on the page.

"Fran peacefully passed away in her sleep leaving Simon, little Clementine, family and friends to face the heartbreaking and inexplicable realisation that life will now go on without the love, guidance and support of a much loved wife, mummy, family member and dear friend."

He said the couple made friends across the globe.

"From their rat-bag antics as Scarfies in Dunedin to their current life in Brunei where they brought gorgeous little Clementine into the world, Fran and Simon were inseparable and the size of the combined group of friends from every corner of the world is testament to the love, laughs and loyalty they have shared with each and everyone who has been privileged enough to cross paths with them both."

In a recent newsletter for Paraparaumu Beach School, principal Jess Ward paid tribute to Mrs Keenan.

"Those who worked with Fran or were taught by her will remember her laugh, her
smile and her zest for life."