Helen Hunley, Alberta's first female lieutenant-governor, has died.

Hunley passed away on Friday at the age of 90, her family confirmed Saturday.

Tammy Cote, Hunley's great-niece, said she leaves behind a lasting legacy.

"There's absolutely no doubt about it, she was a pioneer … for women, but she did feel quite strongly that women had to earn everything that they wanted," Cote said.

"She didn't think that they should have any special privileges because they were women. She just worked very, very hard to be good at everything that she did and was very committed to public service."

Full of encouragement

Cote remembered Hunley as an "amazing woman" who had a steadfast belief in people's potential for greatness.

"I'm so incredibly proud of her and … I really want people to understand what a remarkable person she was," Cote said.

"I was the beneficiary of her encouragement on a regular basis. She just really felt very strongly that you should look for what people were good at and encourage them to do whatever they were up for when opportunity knocked."

Cote said Hunley's rise from humble beginnings "made you believe that anything was possible."

Even in her later years, Cote said, Hunley was active in the community and engaged in current events.

"She had such a great interest in the environment and it was something new to her, so in her early 70s she was taking a college course to learn about the desert environment and learning all the names of the plants and that sort of thing," Cote said.

"I really admire that. I just think it's an amazing thing that someone would, at that stage in their life, pick up a brand new learning opportunity."

'She will be dearly missed'

In a written statement, Premier Ed Stelmach called Hunley's death a "sad day for all Albertans."

"During her term as lieutenant-governor, she devoted countless hours to serving the people of our province. Helen was the first woman to be given full ministerial status in the Alberta government, the first solicitor general of Alberta, and the first woman to be named as Her Majesty The Queen's representative in our province," he said.

"Throughout the course of her long and distinguished life, she served as a role model to many. She was admired and respected throughout all corners of Alberta, and she will be dearly missed."

Ty Lund, MLA for Rocky Mountain House where Hunley served as town councillor and mayor, said she will be remembered fondly.

"Helen was a remarkable woman who was extremely dedicated to her community, her province and her country," Lund said.

"She made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people and I consider it an honour and a privilege to have known such a wonderful person."

Cote said plans for a public memorial service will be released in the coming weeks.