Narelle Baker was top of the class

April 12, 2018

Narelle with her sister Rachel on her wedding day to Russell.

Narelle's coffin was painted by seven of her closest friends the week before she passed.

Narelle was farewelled on Saturday at Wanganui Park Secondary College.

Narelle and Russell on their wedding day.


Narelle Baker will be remembered as a charismatic and joyful women, with an incredible smile that could brighten the darkest of days.

Family, friends and community members on Saturday farewelled Ms Baker and celebrated her colourful life of achievements.

Ms Baker died on April 1, aged 52, following a near four-year battle with terminal illness.

She was a mother, sister, friend and teacher at Wanganui Park Secondary College with a career spanning more than 20 years.

She was a dearly loved wife to Russell, caring mother to Heath and Mia, daughter to Heather and John, and sister to Karen, Sonja and Rachel.

Ms Baker was born in Korumburra, living her younger years in Bendigo before moving to Shepparton to fulfil her dream career as a teacher in 1989.

She began her education in a rural town at Swan Marsh Primary School, alongside only 34 other pupils.

Her interest in art and colour began at a young age, something which continued throughout her life.

She loved learning right from the beginning, sitting down with her mother each evening to discuss what she had learned that day in the classroom.

Her life of learning and education flourished, and she was well respected in her role at Wanganui with students and fellow teachers crediting her success to her love for the job and positive outlook on life.

‘‘As a teacher, Narelle had the respect of students and staff alike... she just loved her job and gave it everything,’’ colleague Keith Gray read at her funeral.

‘‘Narelle was an absolute professional who was never satisfied with second best at whatever she did, she was a ‘doer’.’’

There were many highlights throughout her teaching career at Wanganui: leading several camps throughout Australia, taking part in a teacher-exchange program in Thailand, being appointed leader of the Arts Domain for many years and the Bates House Leader.

In an article published a few years ago in a Wanganui magazine, Ms Baker described her time at the school and her ‘‘dream job’’ as ‘‘nothing short of awesome’’.

She encouraged everyone to experience the joy and beauty in creating and participating in art, explaining how she believed it allowed for creative thinking, broadened the mind and fed the soul.

While art was her passion, she confessed the students she worked with made her job a whole lot more enjoyable.

‘‘As en educator, I hope I have instilled in them the qualities of respect, responsibility and resilience,’’ she wrote.

Those who came in contact with Ms Baker described her as an outstanding woman, with an infectious bubbly personality.

Her younger sister Rachel described her as incredibly organised, an inspirational teacher, a creative artist and a fantastic mother to her children.

‘‘Narelle was so charismatic and joyful, entertaining and funny,’’ Rachel wrote in her sister’s eulogy.

‘‘She was so amazing, so courageous and so inspirational during her journey... it can only leave all of us in awe and a desire to be better people within ourselves.’’

In her early years, Ms Baker was recognised as a beautiful ballerina and a charismatic young soul which landed her the Miss personality of Kangaroo Flat crown.

Rachel described her as a big sister who always had wise words of advice to offer, in particular great parenting advice.

‘‘My daughter and son are so much better off having had Narelle as their aunt advising me along the way,’’ Rachel wrote in the eulogy.

‘‘She had a massive impact on their short lives.’’

Ms Baker’s love for orange was recognised by all who knew her, with her funeral fittingly styled with a touch of orange marking the bright and celebratory occasion.

She was farewelled in a colourful celebration at Wanganui Park Secondary College surrounded by those who had been affected by her in some way during her life.

Ms Baker was remembered at her funeral by her father John as a ‘‘loving daughter’’ who gave everything she could to her 52 years of life.

‘‘Narelle was a beautiful daughter, I benefited from her wonderful personality and found her an easy daughter to raise,’’ John said.

‘‘She has been easy to love and lived life with a passion.’’

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