Elaine French, Canberra's first mum to give birth to triplets, was remembered at her funeral on Friday as a remarkable woman who was a mother to not only her 12 children but to many children in the Narrabundah neighbourhood in which she kept a modest but loving home.
Her family had been preparing to celebrate Mrs French's 100th birthday on October 22 but she passed away on July 23, aged 99, some family convinced she didn't want to hang around to be made a fuss of her for her century.
St Benedict's Catholic Church in Narrabundah was packed on a bright sunny winter morning to farewell Mrs French, who left a loving legacy in her large family.
She and her late husband Tom had 12 children, 27 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren "with more to come".
Bishop Pat Power, retired auxiliary bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, led the mass, giving the homily in which he compared Mrs French to Pope Francis - both "down-to-earth, loving, caring and unpretentious".
Bishop Power remembered how he used to visit Mrs French at the family home in Bundeelah Street, Narrabundah, after giving mass at St Benedict's, and found the visits to be "always a tonic", as did many other people. Bishop Power said Mrs French had lived a "remarkable, faith-filled life".
"Certainly Elaine was not only a mother to her own children, but all the people who came under her wing," he said.
The French family forever entered Canberra folklore when the triplets - Tom, Mick and Bob - were born in 1958.
They were the first triplets born in the national capital and they attracted attention across Australia. They were featured in the Australian Women's Weekly and even appeared in an ad for Rinso laundry powder.
At the time the triplets were born, Tom and Elaine already had five other children, all under the age of eight, the youngest of whom was two.
Mrs French, over the years, had two girls then nine boys and then another girl. They were Frances, Kay, David, Peter, Anthony, Mick, Bob and Tom, Christopher (who died at six weeks), Gregory, Paul and Maryanne.
"People always ask how I coped, but I just did what I had to do. I didn't think about it," she told The Canberra Times in 2016.
Mrs French was born in Wagga Wagga. Her own mother died when she was two and her father disappeared soon after. She was raised by her paternal grandmother in Wangaratta and later aunt in Tasmania. She trained as a nurse in Launceston where she also met and married Tom, in 1949.
The couple and their first three children moved to Canberra in 1953 after Mr French was transferred with the Department of Civil Aviation. They lived in Acton House for eight months and the moved to their Narrabundah home in 1954. Mrs French lived at the same home until her death, cared for by her son Tom, who lived with her.
The arrival of the twins saw another bedroom added to their Narrabundah home. Mrs French would ferry the three boys around in a large cane pram. "Men in trucks used to see me wheeling it around and yell out, 'Have you got a licence for that'?" she said in 2016.
Mr French, who was later employed at the Department of Works, his sister and Mrs French would take turns getting up at night to feed the triplets. "We did hire a nurse but she only stayed two nights because she couldn't get any sleep," Mrs French said in 2016.
While the triplets made the family famous, Mrs French was loved by the entire clan.
One of her grandchildren, Mark Dawes Junior, delivered a poem at her funeral, called Nanny Hugs, written through the eyes of all 27 grandchildren.
To them, Mrs French was about making them all feel "like the favourite grandchild", her "Anzac biscuit tin" filled with lamingtons and cakes, her roast which would make them "run in from the streets". She slipped them cash from up her sleeve, taught them baking and took the time to delight in all their interests.
"She held us like she would never let go," the poem read.
The funeral was both reverent and relaxed. Mrs French's son Greg wore one of her fancy hats in her honour. Bishop Power's little dog sat quietly in the pews.
Her children remembered her unconditional love.
"She never judged anyone, she saw the good in everyone" and the "smell of her warm chocolate cakes will linger with us forever".
"We love you Mum and will miss you terribly," they wrote in a tribute.
Mrs French always said she was blessed with a happy nature, never having the time to dwell on life's adversities.
She was laid to rest at Woden cemetery.