A life defined by care and compassion has been honoured, as hundreds gathered in Albury on Monday to farewell Wiradjuri elder Nancy Rooke, who died on October 3, aged 84.
Representatives from army, police, education, health and politics joined family and friends at St Matthew's Anglican Church, with every seat filled and many left standing inside and out.
This cross section of the community reflected Aunty Nancy's wide influence, whether in supporting social justice causes, promoting inclusion or just lending a ear to all who needed to talk.
Pastor Darren Wighton did the Welcome to Country, noting he had previously shared many such occasions with Aunty Nancy.
"Whenever I do the welcome, I'll think of you, whenever I smell the eucalyptus, I'll think of you," he said.
Her son Terry Cummins outlined her history, which began in a Narrandera riverside shack with a "dirt floor, no power, no water, not even a proper door".
Aunty Nancy helped out her father, who went droving, on the road, with her ability as a horsewoman much admired.
One of six children, she was "adviser, educator and, best of all, friend" to her younger sisters.
"I feel privileged to have such a positive person as a role model, she will be solely missed, our other mother," her sister Gail said in a tribute read by Troy Pietsch.
Aunty Nancy trained in nursing, met her first husband at a dance and raised six children. After the couple separated in 1975, she moved to Sydney where she and Chris Rooke fell in love.
They shifted to Albury in 1978 and Aunty Nancy worked variously at the Murray Valley Centre, St Vincent de Paul, home care and TAFE, also volunteering at the Salvation Army opportunity shop in North Albury.
"Wherever Nancy went, she made an impression," Mr Cummins said.
"At the Vinnies shelter, her kindness and respectful manner made everyone her friend, especially on the occasions they tasted her wonderful cooking skills."
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She helped Murray Valley clients learn simple living skills and prompted a wider change of attitude.
"Nancy convinced everyone that they should be dressed according to their years, which raised their self-esteem," her son said.
"Those clients never forgot Nancy."
She also reached out to others in the Aboriginal community, which saw her awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2009.
Born at a time of discrimination and hostility towards Aboriginal people, Aunty Nancy never forgot her grandmother's belief that education led to a better life.
Asked how to get more Indigenous students into TAFE - there were just two at the time - she said first "get the grandmothers to TAFE, then the parents, then the kids would come, realise education was there for them too".
"In two years they had 100 Aboriginal students," Mr Cummins said.
Speakers at Monday's service remembered her amazing memory ("which may or may not be related to her love of elephants"), the comings and goings in a house where everyone was welcomed and the constant scent of eucalytpus.
Photos and footage showed the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother surrounded by those she loved.
Many relatives took part in her funeral service, lighting candles, presenting readings and carrying the coffin, which featured a custom photograph of her beloved Murray River.
Niece Lesley Marks, reading tributes from Aunty Nancy's siblings, said her aunt was always there for her family.
"You did not have to ask her for help, Nancy seemed to sense when you needed it or just when you needed someone to talk to," she said.
"Nancy once told me, if you cannot look after or care for your family, then your time on earth has been wasted. Nancy's time was definitely not wasted.
"If everyone used their lives the way Nancy did, the world would be such a better place."
- The Border Mail attended Monday's funeral with the permission of the Rooke family