Linda Armstrong was a third-generation Kiwi who grew up in West Auckland and found Islam in her 50s.
Her nephew Kyron Gosse told the Herald she was adored by the Muslim community.
"She would come back telling the stories of sharing amazing food and swapping stories with the other women at mosque," Gosse said.
"She was not a story-teller, she was a story-swapper," he said of a woman who could connect with people from all different walks of life.
"She was always friends with a lot of underdogs."
The loss of the woman with a "huge heart" came only a month after her mother's death.
"The passing of her mum was quite beautiful. It was her time. It was expected," Gosse said.
The loss of Armstrong was something else.
"We are not just dealing with a death. We are dealing with a terrorist attack. Even now its very surreal."
One reality check was seeing armed police in Auckland CBD on Friday, Gosse said.
"That doesn't happen in New Zealand."
But Gosse said Armstrong would be "over the moon" to see the public outpouring of love for her Muslim brothers and sisters.
Armstrong had always seen the good in everyone and the beauty in everything with a "childlike innocence", helping anyone who needed it.
"She befriended many travellers, immigrants and refugees opening her home, her heart and her kitchen," he said.
Armstrong loved sharing New Zealand with foreign arrivals, taking them to parts of the country they might never see otherwise and helping them to settle into their new home.
"She moved to Christchurch in recent years to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren - who at this time ask for space and to be left alone whilst they grieve."
Gosse and his brother have flown down to Christchurch to support their family.