Not many women could have managed to look as glamorous as Whanganui mum Jill Sicely did when photographed with her six children in 1962.
Living on a Parapara farm without many modern conveniences, Jill had been named as winner of the first-ever Mrs New Zealand contest two years earlier.
Jill died at the Summerset Care Centre in Whanganui on July 20. She was 88.
She leaves five children (daughter Jillian died in 1974), 15 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
When interviewed by the Chronicle in 2019 about her 1960 Mrs New Zealand win, Jill was modest about the title and said her entry in the competition started as a joke she shared with her husband Ian.
"I broke our bakelite radio when I knocked it off the shelf while vacuuming and Ian said I should enter the contest to win us a new one," she said.
One of the prizes was a state-of-the-art radiogram so Jill decided to enter "just to see what might happen" and after being voted Mrs Wanganui she went on to become the first national winner.
Jill's youngest daughter Robin recalls her mother's life-long thirst for knowledge and her exceptional organisational abilities.
Born Jillian Tasker, she spent her earliest years in Makirikiri Rd as the youngest child of Albert and Daphne Tasker and younger sister to Jim, Frank and Eleanor.
The family later bought The Creamery and moved to the village where Jill attended Upokongaro School and became firm friends with principal Clem Clemance who nurtured her eagerness to learn.
Later Jill cycled from Upokongaro to attend Whanganui Girls College and after leaving school she worked for the Department of Māori Affairs.
"She loved it there and always spoke passionately about the job," Robin said.
"A kaumātua she worked with suggested the name of our farm. It is called Waiwiri - winding water."
At 18, Jill met her future husband, Ian Sicely, who was introduced by her brother Jim and he fell in love with the "vivacious beauty with dark, curly hair", Robin said.
Ian, a WWII returned serviceman, had been allocated 1200 acres of land to farm in Te Rimu Rd, and the young couple set about establishing the property after they married in 1951.
"Mum was very busy helping on the farm, producing regular baking, cooking mutton roasts, and having babies," Robin said.
"Six babies in eight and a half years was quite an achievement."
When Jill shared her story with the Chronicle in 2019, she recalled that Ian was "a man ahead of his time" in the way he helped care for his children and was always willing to do his share of night feeds and nappy changes.
"We had annual holidays at Ohope Beach and on the Coromandel Peninsula, often joining up with cousins from Auckland, and usually taking extras with us," Robin said.
"We would camp initially and then progressed to a caravan when we managed to get a larger car. Fitting eight people into a Vauxhall Vanguard was a bit of a squeeze - thank goodness for front bench seats."
Robin recalls Christmases with all her siblings and cousins in the garage at home.
"There were kids and food for miles," she said.
"In 1974, another life-changing event affected Mum's life.
"Her oldest child, Jillian, took her own life. In order to heal, Mum left the farm and took on a new role of managing the Grand Hotel, using her hospitality and hostessing skills to great effect.
"A few years later we regrouped and had wonderful times again when the family would meet at Mum and Dad's home in Rees St for lunch on a Saturday following the grandchildren's school sports."
In the 1980s, Jill became head of the school of tourism at Wanganui Polytechnic and the Whanganui East campus was established in Hakeke St.
Whanganui chef Joe Power tutored alongside her there and said it was a wonderful time where many students learned to become some of the country's best restaurateurs.
"Jill was wonderful to work with and we remained good friends over the years. She had a busy family life but she treated the staff and students at the campus as her second family. Everyone had a lot of love and respect for her," Power said.
"I recently took her to Maria Lane Eatery & Bar and she loved it. Owner Bryce Mason was one of Jill's first hospitality students and she really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere."
Jill's other passion was gardening. She established two and a half acres of garden at Waiwiri which is now home to her son John and his family.
She also established a beautiful garden outside her villa in Summerset Village where she and Ian moved in 2000.
Since Ian died in 2004 Jill has continued to lead a busy life - taking a number of overseas trips with family members and she organised many group activities at Summerset.
Until recently she enjoyed weekly brunch meetings with friends and Robin said her mother enjoyed "a lovely three months at Waiwiri" sitting on the veranda surveying the garden she established which is now tended by John and his wife Elspeth.
"During her last four months she received wonderful care from the terrific staff at Summerset Care Centre," Robin said.
Jill Sicely was farewelled at the historic St Mary's Anglican Church at Upokongaro where she was a life-long parishioner.