One special memory Sharon Lawton has of her niece Brooke is the day about 14 years ago, when she picked up a broom in the shearing shed.
Two weeks ago, Brooke Tuhakaraina (19) was found dead in Western Australia.
Miss Lawton, of Rangiriri, said that as a child, her niece had been pottering around in the woolshed while the shearing gang was working.
“She was walking around with her broom and banging it and we started to teach her how to do it properly and that’s when she started picking it up naturally,” Miss Lawton said.
Soon she was sweeping the board and putting the wool in the correct place.
“She started woolhandling when she was 5 years old,” Miss Lawton said.
It was no wonder she enjoyed working in the shearing shed, as her mother, La Mer Tohiariki, and father, Kelly Tuhakaraina, both came from families who were “big names in the shearing industry”.
Her niece was “so full of love”.
“She just had a beautiful outlook on life.
“She was a happy-go-lucky kid.”
Miss Tuhakaraina had loved her family, especially her young sisters Kaycee, Mia and Nyree.
“They were so important to her,” Miss Lawton said.
“She was a beautiful sister to them.”
She was the sort of person who was always helping others.
“I used to growl her for doing too much for people.”
Miss Tuhakaraina grew up in Gore, attending Knapdale Primary School and then Gore High School.
She was also a member of the Calvin Community Church youth group.
After she finished school in 2017, she spent some time working in a fish processing plant in Nelson, but soon the lure of the shearing shed drew her south to work with Miss Lawton who is a wool classer.
During a stint at Omarama, Miss Lawton explained to her before the shearing began how to clean the wool shorn off the bellies of sheep.
When it came time to deal with the bellies, Miss Tuhakaraina had forgotten what to do she started placing the bellies on the door of the catching pen while she waited to find out.
“It was so cute ’cause most kids would just chuck it in and not worry about it.
“That was precious to me.”
Miss Tuhakaraina went to Australia last year and had planned to come home several months later, but stayed to help a friend who was experiencing difficulties.
When the Covid-19 situation developed she decided to stay where she was, because to leave Australia she would have to fly from a city where many people were sick with the virus.
While the family knew Miss Tuhakaraina had not died in suspicious circumstances or taken her own life, they were waiting to hear of the cause of death, Miss Lawton said.
Miss Tuhakaraina’s premature death had been even harder to deal with because someone who did not know her created an online fundraising page.
“But not for Brooke themselves.
“It was pretty sick, actually.”