Next week’s public funeral for a man and his two young sons who drowned on the NSW south coast is to be a celebration of their lives, buoyed by a “massive outpouring of love” from the local community.

Shane O’Neill, a 28-year-old butcher, dived into dark, choppy waters to try to save his sons, Riley, four, and 15-month-old Travis, after the boys fell from the wharf at Tathra, near Bega, on Tuesday night.

Their funeral will be held at 11am (AEDT) next Wednesday at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Bega.

“This will be a celebration of life and the family have asked that people wear bright clothing to celebrate the lives of these three wonderful people,” funeral director John Whyman told AAP on Friday.

“The service will be open to the public, followed by a private cremation.”

Whyman said he has been in close contact with the O’Neill family, including the mother of the two boys and Mr O’Neill’s fiancee, Stacey Lambert.

The pair were due to wed in March.

“It is obviously a terribly traumatic time for everybody but the family seems to be doing really well,” he said.

“I really don’t think a lot of people have come to grips with what has happened yet and hopefully that will be helped by the service next week.

“There is just a massive outpouring of love and support throughout the community at this stage, it’s quite remarkable.”

An account set up to support Lambert and help cover the cost of Wednesday’s funeral has so far raised more than $70,000.

The account is being managed by Horizon Credit Union, whose general manager Jon Stanfield said the balance was growing very quickly.

“We are looking at numbers in excess of $70,000,” Stanfield said.

“We’ve just been gobsmacked by the generosity of the community especially during these hard economic times.”

Stanfield said donations have come from right across Australia, mostly in amounts of $5, $10 or $20, although he said there have been a couple of large deposits.

“The widespread media coverage of the story has really been hitting people in the heart,” he said.