WILMA Caldwell was never scared of hard work and her family meant everything to her, partner Werner Osewald said yesterday.
The New Zealand-born Jindera resident is being farewelled in her own home as part of a three-day sacred Maori funeral that started yesterday.
The 62-year-old drowned on December 3 while holidaying with Mr Osewald in Tonga.
An inquest into the death found it was an accidental drowning.
The mother and grandmother was yesterday remembered as an endearing, honest and caring woman who always gave to others, especially her family.
Mrs Caldwell was often referred to as the queen of the family, a title she held dear to her heart.
“She was definitely the focus of our family, she was the glue that held everything together,” Mr Osewald said.
Mrs Caldwell is survived by her partner Mr Osewald, and had six children Gary, Kay, Jay, Bobby-Jo (dec), Kevin (dec), Kristal and four grandchildren.
Yesterday her family — Mr Osewald, two of her sons Gary and Jay, as well as their wives, Sharon and Claire — shared stories in her Jindera home.
“She always liked a challenge,” son Gary Caldwell said.
“I remember the time she took part in an arm wrestling competition at the Ettamogah Pub.
“She broke the other woman’s arm and the other woman was a professional.”
Mrs Caldwell moved to Australia from New Zealand at the age of 27.
She married her husband Gary (dec) and lived in Sydney for a time before moving to Thurgoona and later Jindera.
Mrs Caldwell had held many jobs, including working alongside her husband manufacturing horse stables.
For the past seven years she worked for Clarke Security Services in Wodonga as an ATM technician.
Mrs Caldwell was very much into her sport, playing social golf, tennis, hockey, softball and netball.
Her family will honour the traditional Maori funeral.
This involves her body remaining at the house for three days during which time various customs are performed, including singing and viewing the body.
Tomorrow, the third day, mourners will say their farewells during a service by a Maori priest at 11am, followed by a wake.
Mrs Caldwell will then be cremated.