Peta Willard was remembered as a selfless, kind and passionate teacher, wife and mother at a massive funeral in Camden this morning.
The former Mount Carmel Catholic College and Magdalene Catholic High School teacher died aged 36 on Wednesday, May 8 after a battle with melanoma.
More than a thousand mourners - including at least 250 Mount Carmel students who were brought to the funeral by bus - attended the 10.30am funeral service at St Paul's Catholic Church.
The crowd was so large that many people listened to the service from outside the church.
Father Joe Nguyen said the church only saw services of a similar size twice each year - at Easter and Christmas.
Father Nguyen said Mrs Willard had "36 years of life and love" before being called up to God's "eternal banquet".
"A lot of us here today will think it was not supposed to be this way," he said.
"But God has a plan for us all and he does not tell us what he has in mind - Peta was a child of God.
"She said she had no fear of death whatsoever."
Father Nguyen said it was now the responsibility of everyone filling the church to carry on Mrs Willard's legacy.
"Today is about our loss, our pain, our sorrow," he said.
"Peta made a difference in so many people's lives and now it is our turn."
Lyndal Koteras, a friend of Mrs Willard's for more than 30 years, spoke of the things which brought the Oran Park resident joy.
"Her biggest passions were her family, teaching, touch footy and Kmart," she said.
"Her students, many of whom are here today, are a true representation of who she was in the classroom."
Matthew McMahon, the principal of Magdalene Catholic High School, said Mrs Willard's dedication to her work was second to none.
"If I wanted to show a beginning teacher how to care for students, Peta would be the prime example," he said.
"If I could sum up her teaching in two words they would be 'fierce' and 'passionate'.
"She exuded positivity.
"I'm sure we all feel proud and grateful for having known Peta."
He addressed Mrs Willard's husband Nathan and young children Fletcher and Parker: "boys, you need to know your mum made such a difference".
Mrs Koteras also read messages from Mrs Willard's family.
Her mother Vicki said her daughter brought "so much love and joy" and "no mother and daughter pair has ever had so much fun" as them.
"I can't imagine life without having you by my side," her message read.
Fletcher called Mrs Willard the "best mum ever".
"Everything I will do in life I know you will be there," his message said.
Parker's message drew plenty of tears from mourners: "I am proud to call myself a Willard. But now I question myself, without Mum, whether I am still a Willard or just a boy without his mum."
Mr Willard's message spoke of all the things he regretted - missing morning cuddles, not voicing his love at every opportunity.
He said he would do his best to raise their boys in his wife's memory and carry on her legacy of kindness and selflessness.
"I don't worry that you'll ever be forgotten because you are unforgettable."
As the hearse carrying Mrs Willard's coffin left the church, hundreds of the late teacher's past students (classes were cancelled for years 10-12 at Mount Carmel) formed a guard of honour along John Street.
A wake was held at Campbelltown Catholic Club after the funeral.
Mrs Koteras told the Advertiser before the funeral that one of Mrs Willard's biggest wishes for more people to be aware of the symptoms of melanoma (skin cancer) and get their skin checked.