Friends mourning members of a family of four found dead in rural southwestern Ontario this week remembered the mother as a pillar of the community and a selfless friend with a smile that could light up a room.

Victoria Cranston said she grew close with the mother over the last three years, and their kids were friends as well. It was a friendship filled with laughter and support, she said.

"If I had a hard moment, she was there. If she had a hard moment, I was there," she said.

The mother was "a beautiful person inside and out" and had a smile "that brightens everyone's day," she said.

As for the kids, Cranston said she wants them to be remembered "by their laughter, their smiles, the way those kids ran around laughing and joking around, throwing snowballs with no gloves on, kicking the soccer ball across the field."

Treena Upcott, another friend, said the mother loved her family dearly and made those around her feel appreciated.

"She was an amazing person, an amazing friend. There's no way really to describe the loss for the community," said Upcott, a nail technician who also had regular appointments with the woman for more than a decade.

The woman's daughter and son would also tag along to the studio and always wanted to lend a hand, Upcott recalled. The girl was bubbly and smart, and the boy was full of energy, always running around, she said, adding he also loved picking out colours for his sister.

Officers were called to a home on County Road 13 in the community of Harrow, south of Windsor, around 1:30 p.m. Thursday and found four people dead. They have not released any details about the identities of those who died or the circumstances of their deaths.

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy has said the four were a mother, father and two kids.

On Saturday, Bondy said the mother was very active in the community south of Windsor and had recently organized its minor soccer program, working hard to rally volunteers.

"Without her we probably wouldn't have had it, because it's a lot of work to organize and volunteer," the mayor said.

She spoke from the Harrow Soccer Complex, where a vigil for the family is set to be held Sunday evening.

Cranston, a family friend, said the mother would have been the one organizing the vigil if it had been for someone else in the community.

Ontario Provincial Police had taped off the tree-lined road that leads to the home. By Saturday afternoon, a handful of bouquets as well as four small wooden crosses formed a makeshift memorial nearby.

Bondy has said the loss has had a "huge impact" on the community, and there are mounting questions about what led to the deaths.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 22, 2024.

— With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto

This is a corrected story. An earlier version mistakenly said police said the four were a mother, father and two kids, when in fact that was said by the mayor.