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Northlander Gaelene Bright remembered as ‘joyous’ two years after her murder

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Gaelene Bright, right, pictured with her late sister Janine Snowling, loved to dress up and get involved with the Wild West Festival in Waimamaku.

The family and friends of Gaelene Joy Bright – a grandmother from a small Northland town – are taking time to remember her adventurous spirit today, two years after her death.

Gaelene was shot dead by her partner Raymond Charles Phillimore. Her remains were found in Waipoua Forest more than two weeks after she went missing. He later admitted her murder and was jailed for life, with a minimum period of 13 years.

But her family and friends said she was so much more than her death, and they are taking the time to remember her bright, joyous personality, which matched her surname to a tee.

“She was a lover of life, she had such an adventurous spirit and a generous, loving nature; always making the most of her days doing the things she loved or to make others feel loved,” said daughter Luella Bright on behalf of the family.

Gaelene lived in Hokianga, first in Kohukohu where she was a hairdresser [and confidante to many], volunteer firefighter and artist who also volunteered with the local art gallery.

She later moved to Waimamaku, on the south side of Hokianga, where she loved to get involved with events like the annual Wild West Fest.

She was also an amazing mother, who gave her five children a happy, loved childhood, Luella said.

“As adults, mum continued to have close bonds with all of her five children, and that then extended to her grandchildren. She was always there, we were always loved,” she said.

“Gardening was a life-long passion – her green thumb always bringing gardens to life – a beekeeper, a belly dancer, an artist, a homemaker; her creative drive always wanting to learn and give it all a go.

“At 69 she was still giving life her all, riding her beloved motorbike on trips around the country or stints of life on the road in her house bus. She was truly such a beautiful person.”

Last year, to mark the anniversary of her passing, a bench seat was placed close to Waimamaku Hall.

The seat includes Gaelene’s details and a small poem: “She walks in beauty through the flowers, she walks in light amongst the trees, she walks in love in our hearts … she is free”.

Gaelene Joy Bright matched her surname to a tee with a lively and joyous personality.
Gaelene Joy Bright matched her surname to a tee with a lively and joyous personality.

Today, Waimamaku community members are holding a small gathering from 12pm to 2pm, to remember Gaelene’s love of life, including music and dancing.

Luella said the community’s love and support for the family, and desire to remember Gaelene, was testament to how well-loved she was in the area.

“She loved the beat of a drum and music was her happy place: Singing out of tune but dancing all night long, with a smile on her face, is how she would want to be remembered.”

Denise Piper is a news reporter for the Northern Advocate, focusing on health and business. She has more than 20 years in journalism and is passionate about covering stories that make a difference.

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