My heart broke upon hearing Rotorua's beloved 'Aunty' Bea Yates had died yesterday.

One of the greatest pleasures of being a journalist is getting to meet all the inspiring, selfless, courageous people in our community.

Aunty Bea was one of those people.

I only met her a handful of times, but without fail she would always draw me into her arms and plant a big kiss on my cheek, greeting me like we were old friends.


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Aunty Bea Yates brought onto Takinga Marae for tangi

When interviewing her, no matter the topic, she was always enthusiastic and passionate, eager to bring you along with her for the ride.

I feel truly privileged to have met Aunty Bea - a woman with an aura that glowed with positivity and who radiated pure, unadulterated love and affection.

Within minutes of posting of her passing, our Facebook page was flooded with tributes and memories detailing how she had touched the lives of so many - a true testament to her character.

The list of her contributions to society are endless. She taught for more than 50 years around Rotorua and was one of the first people in the country to recognise the need for children to have a "full puku" to be able to learn.

She prepared food for hungry children, long before the government funded breakfast clubs in schools and taught students te reo when there were no resources to do so.

She has published several children's books, was a regular volunteer for events such as the Pink Walk and Relay For Life and set up Te Whakapono Trust which went on to establish the city's first dialysis unit, a chemotherapy unit, an accommodation unit at the hospital and a mobile hearing clinic.

Aunty Bea helped the Māori Wardens for more than 20 years, pounded the streets collecting for the Salvation Army, the Cancer Society, the SPCA, Red Cross, RSA, St John, Scouts, Guides and Cubs, she performed on telethons, served on Māori trusts, marae and sporting committees and was a volunteer worker for the Te Ngae Police Community Centre.

As councillor Trevor Maxwell said, she was the "Mother Teresa of Rotorua".

It is no exaggeration to describe Aunty Bea as Rotorua royalty. She changed people's lives, made Rotorua a better place and will be sorely missed by thousands.

From all of us at the Rotorua Daily Post, moe mai ra Aunty Bea.