Congewai resident Annette Rees has been remembered as a wildlife warrior, a friendly face at the local pharmacy and post office, a keen historian and the linchpin of her family.
The Hunter Wildlife Rescue life member and long-serving West Cessnock Post Office manager passed away suddenly on January 9, the day before her 67th birthday.
Annette was the daughter of Sheila and Ted Cook; an older sister to Gary. She began her life on the farm in Congewai, before the family moved into Bellbird in 1959.
She developed an interest in native wildlife at a very young age, giving her brother the nickname 'Joey' after continually asking her parents for - and being denied - a kangaroo for a pet.
Many years later, Annette would get her wish, when her husband Warren returned to their Bellbird home with a baby joey from the pouch of a mother who had been the victim of a roadside accident.
Annette and Warren went on to care for countless injured animals - kangaroos or wallabies, wombats or possums, goannas or koalas - at their home.
Their passion for rehabilitating wildlife eventually outgrew their residential block in Bellbird, and they returned to Congewai, where they bought a mountainside property and named it 'The Wilderness' (after the term given to the 'top end' of Congewai by Annette's grandmother).
Annette and Warren were valued members of the Native Animal Trust Fund (NATF - now known as Hunter Wildlife Rescue) and were awarded life membership after years of dedication to the preservation of native wildlife and for sharing their home and knowledge.
Hunter Wildlife Rescue president Audrey Koosmen said Annette was a "wonderful wildlife warrior".
"She was a very talented lady who showed nothing but kindness to all she met, she was very welcoming and warm in her nature towards all," she said.
"She fought many a fight to save wildlife habitat in the Cessnock area."
Along with wildlife, history was another of Annette's passions.
She was a lifetime member and former president the Cessnock Historical Society, after joining in the 1980s to research her family history.
She was also a key member in projects such as the Rothbury Riot Memorial, the Kitchener Poppethead Park and the Bellbird Mine Disaster (for which she wrote a book).
After years of requests to assist others in their research, Annette leapt willingly into the digital world and created her own website to provide and preserve local history: cessnocklocalhistory.vpweb.com.au.
Annette was also well-known in the community for her work at West Cessnock Pharmacy and Post Office, working in the pharmacy for many years before taking on the role of post office manager - a position she was thrilled to accept and held until recently when she began semi-retirement.
West Cessnock Pharmacy and Post Office owners Jason and Tracey Harrington said Annette was a great mentor and friend, and she would be sadly missed by all of their staff and customers.
Above all else, family was the most important thing in Annette's life.
She was married to Warren for 50 years, and they went on to have two daughters Heather and Kathryn (Kate), and welcomed Fiona to the family as a foster child in 1987.
"Mum was a generous and selfless person who had room in her heart for so much, and was always going to the extra mile to help someone whether it be at work, within her family or a random stranger," Kate said.
"She loved her family unconditionally and was proud of her girls, bursting with pride with her four grandchildren and a bundle of excitement when her first great-grandchild arrived in September of last year.
"She was the linchpin of our family and leaves a hole that can never be filled."
Annette Rees was farewelled at Peterson House Chapel on January 15.