The Border's Indigenous community is mourning the loss of one of its most respected members following the death of Nancy Rooke on Thursday.
Aunty Nancy, 84, was a Wiradjuri elder who received an Order of Australia Medal in 2009 for her service to the Albury-Wodonga Indigenous community.
Her story began in Narrandera where she was born in a shack on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River.
"It was a hard childhood," she had told The Border Mail.
"Dad was a drover and went away to war for four years," she said.
"Everyone worked, including my mum and there was often only Gran and I in that little shack."
But although material comforts were few, Aunty Nancy never forgot the kindness she experienced from the elders around her.
"You could go into any place and they'd give whatever they had to eat and drink," she said. "Everybody used to share, everybody."
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Aunty Nancy arrived in Albury with husband Chris and their family about 40 years ago and worked at the Murray Valley Centre and then the St Vincent de Paul men's shelter.
She was an initiator of the Wiradjuri Home Care Service and later studied at TAFE.
In 2017, Aunty Nancy told The Border Mail her difficult childhood "made me a better person, I tell you".
"It's enabled me to bring up healthy, happy, well-educated kids and grandchildren," she said.
"And along the way I've tried to do my best by helping people out."
Well-known for delivering the welcome to country at events, Aunty Nancy could capture the essence of an occasion in a few words.
"Look around and give thanks for the community that listens," she told the crowd at the 2017 Albury-Wodonga Winter Solstice.
Father Peter MacLeod-Miller, of St Matthew's Anglican Church, Albury, described Aunty Nancy as "a community ambassador for inclusion, a champion for justice".
"Nancy had a gift for connecting people and her navigational equipment was an unswerving, unapologetic commitment to kindness and compassion," he said.
Aunty Nancy is survived by her husband Chris, six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
- The Border Mail gained permission from the Rooke family to use Aunty Nancy's name and photo