As a surf lifesaver she was devoted to protecting others, but, during her regular morning swim, Christine Armstrong could not protect herself.
The 63-year-old was taken by a shark off the South Coast, not far from Rob, her husband of 44 years.
It happened at Tathra Beach near Bega, where she had swum for more than a decade.
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A strong ocean swimmer, Mrs Armstrong was a member of the Tathra Surf Life Saving Club and a regular at the 'Wharf to Waves' competition.
During her regular training routine, of 14 years, alongside her husband and six others, she embarked on a 600 metre swim from the beach to Tathra’s historic wharf.
Midway through, she turned back and the rest of the group carried on unaware Mrs Armstrong was missing.
Inspector Jason Edmunds said: "As they were coming back, they observed a three-to-four metre shark in the water. They gathered together for protection and made their way back to the beach."
The group then raised the alarm and a search began, involving a helicopter, police launch, rescue boats and jet skis.
One man, fisherman Voya Jovanovich, ‘saw a very large shark in the water, apparently mauling something in the water’.
Emergency services and surf lifesavers are continuing to search the area, although it has been delayed due to bad weather.
"She will be sadly missed by all who loved her, especially by Rob, her husband of 44 years," Mrs Armstrong's family said in a statement.
"She has been swimming at Tathra Beach for 14 years and was an experienced and committed member of the surf club."
Tathra, with a population of just 1,600, was the scene of another tragedy in 2008, when two little boys tumbled off the wharf.
Their father jumped in to save them - but all three drowned.
Swimmers have been warned to stay out of the water
Police and surf lifesavers asked the public to stay out of the water at Tathra Beach following the attack.
It is believed to be the first reported shark attack in the area.
"It struck me as surprising," shark bite expert Dr Chris Neff of the University of Sydney told AAP.
"Tathra certainly doesn't have a history of shark attacks on the database."
The fatal shark attack brings to 47 the number of people killed in NSW in the past 100 years, according to the Shark Attack File.
Dr Colin Simpfendorfer, a shark researcher at Queensland's James Cook University, said the shark was likely to have been a great white as they inhabit Australia's southern waters.
"If you swim in the ocean, there is a remote chance you will be bitten by a shark," he said.
"There is no place that is particularly safe."
In a separate incident, WA Police are investigating whether a diver found dead south of Perth was killed by a shark.
Scuba diver Michael "Mick" McGregor, 38, disappeared off Mandurah on Saturday and his body was found yesterday.
Police said McGregor's remains indicated he had been attacked by a shark but they were not yet able to tell whether he had been bitten before or after he died.
Mr McGregor's devastated girlfriend Elizabeth Cambage said last night that he had kissed her goodbye on Saturday morning and told her: "I'll be back at lunchtime."
"I couldn't ever pull him out of that water . . . he loved it," she said. "Scuba diving, fishing, boating, crabbing . . . he did whatever he could in the water."
Ms Cambage said everyone was shocked by his death and were unsure what had happened.