The family of a Far North woman who dedicated her life to teaching in small New Zealand schools are reeling after she died in a tragic accident just hours after the national lockdown began.

Gena Shepherd, 81, died on March 26 on the property she owned with her husband of 59 years, Robin.

Her death was the result of a tractor-related accident and will be referred to the Coroner.

Gena Shepherd. Photo / NZME
Gena Shepherd. Photo / NZME

Her son Peter Shepherd spoke to the Herald today about the tragedy, saying it had been "very difficult" to lose his beloved mother at a time where many of the family could not leave their own homes.


"We had just convinced mum and dad to go into self-isolation in response to Covid-19 and they were just getting used to that really," Shepherd said.

"They were still adjusting… this thrown on top of that has been really, really hard."

Under the lockdown, funeral directors provide essential services and will continue working.

However, gathering together for funerals and tangihanga is not permitted while New Zealand is at alert level 4.

After Gena's accident emergency services were called but sadly her life could not be saved.

Peter Shepherd said his father was doing as well as he could.

Immediate family lived at an adjacent property so they had been able to support him in person.

But the situation was hard.


And it was made harder because under the rules of the lockdown, no funerals can be held.

"In a way this has been easier because people have been prepared for all sorts of weird and strange things to happen during the lockdown," he said.

"People are in that war mentality - the 'we've got to get on with things" mentality, so people are just saying 'we've got to get on with it'.

"But it's very, very hard for our family and friends not to be able to visit, especially since mum was so interwoven in the community."

Gena Shepherd was originally from Auckland but after marrying Robin - also a teacher - the pair moved around the country working in small and isolated schools.

She continued teaching until she was 77.

"She was very dedicated to teaching in those smaller communities, places where it was quite hard to get teachers," her son said.

"She had a very strong personality, a lot of character and amazing generosity.

"That was reflected in the messages from people and on social media.

"Her openness to people, her support of many people's lives at critical times both inside schools and outside was also reflected.

"She was a good mum, her kids did well in the world."

Gena Shepherd is survived by her children Peter, Stephen, Michael and Joanne and grandchildren Veronica, PJ, Tristan, Mihi, Rory and Kitty.

Her death notice said she was a respected friend of many in New Zealand and overseas.

"She touched the lives of hundreds as a teacher, artist, friend, animal breeder and trainer," it read.

"She will be sorely missed."

Peter Shepherd said a memorial service would be held as soon as possible after the lockdown.

"It's just unfortunate," he said.

"It's very tough in these times because we can't have funerals, we can't go to cremations and things like that so things for us are extremely difficult."

The Shepherd family wanted to thank friends and emergency services including police, fire, ambulance and the Northland Rescue Helicopter.

They have asked people to make a donation to the helicopter service in lieu of flowers. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website