DOCTOR Ross Dyer will be remembered as a loving father, grandfather and friend who always put the needs and comfort of others ahead of his own.
He passed away suddenly on March 2, aged 59.
He had gone for an early morning walk and swim at his favourite spot at Bar Beach, and although he was a strong swimmer, the surf was rough and the waves unusually large.
What happened next is unknown, but sadly, Dr Dyer’s body was found by lifeguards that morning.
His injuries were consistent with being dumped by a big wave.
Earlier this year, Dr Dyer’s daughters had begun collecting childhood photographs of their father.
They had planned to present him with a This Is Your Life-style tribute at his 60th birthday party.
Instead they found themselves creating a photographic tribute to their beloved father at his funeral.
‘‘We’re all so proud of our Dad because he was an incredible role model,’’ daughter Stella Dyer said in her eulogy.
‘‘He lived his values every day, despite how difficult this can be.
‘‘Caring for others was his life’s work.’’
Dr Dyer was born in Melbourne’s Surrey Hills on May 16, 1955.
He met his ex-wife, and lifelong friend, Judith, at Nunawading High School. The couple married in 1976 while both studying at Monash University Medical School.
They had three children: Stella, Remy and Jo.
In those first few years of marriage, money was tight, but the couple supported a World Vision child all the same.
They felt rich in each other and their friends. Their life was like a Melbourne version of Friends with a Christian twang.
‘‘Our home seemed to be a bit of a drop-in place,’’ Judith said.
‘‘Our rule was always that people come first, and share what you have with others.’’
In 1980, Dr Dyer began a free general medical practice in a low-income community in Spotswood on behalf of Baptist Social Services.
In 1983 he realised a dream when he began working at a small country practice in Port Fairy. As one of four doctors caring for a population of about 19,000, Dr Dyer delivered babies, did anaesthetics for the local surgeon and also serviced the town’s hospital.
‘‘It meant in one way or another Ross was on call for something all the time,’’ Judith said.
‘‘In both practices he was so popular that within a year or two of being in each place he was sometimes seeing 60 to 70 patients a day.
‘‘He was well respected for his thoroughness and for his approachable and genuinely caring manner.’’
The family moved to Newcastle in 1989. Dr Dyer worked at Wallsend Hospital and, later, Belmont Hospital, Newcastle’s Calvary Mater, Newcastle Private Hospital and the John Hunter Hospital.
His colleague and friend Dr Jeremy Smillie said staff were always glad when Ross appeared on a roster. They knew things ran smoothly when when he was around.
‘‘Most of all, he exemplified why many of us chose medicine,’’ Dr Smillie said.
‘‘Ross treated everyone with compassion.
‘‘Ross always chose to do the ‘right thing’, not the ‘easy thing’, when it came to his patients.’’
Dr Dyer and Judith separated in 1993. He married Sue Bailey in 2007.
After becoming grandparents to Ethan in 2011, Dr Dyer and Judith reunited in 2012.
‘‘I am so grateful for mum and dad’s amazing friendship,’’ Stella said.
‘‘After a very painful divorce, they chose to behave kindly towards each other and they focused on being a united parenting team.
‘‘They both participated in all of our special family events, so that us kids could continue our family life together.
‘‘Over the years, their friendship was renewed and grew in strength.’’
Dr Dyer’s selflessness and compassion for others will be his legacy.
‘‘When Dad wasn’t working, he was still giving,’’ Stella said.
‘‘He went to Cambodia to treat sick children, he worked in the Solomons, in remote Aboriginal communities and he spent five months in New Zealand helping to build homes for the disadvantaged.
‘‘He had a dream of buying a beautiful tall yacht one day, but he let it go because he felt it was important to give everything he had to those with greater needs.’’
Stella said her father always made decisions from the heart.
‘‘Once when I was about 15, I came home from school to find a homeless woman living in our loungeroom,’’ she said.
‘‘I was outraged at the time, because I felt that I should have been consulted first. But the poor woman was in urgent need – so Dad acted immediately, without question.’’
Daughter Jo Dyer said he had perfected the art of the ‘‘dad joke’’. So much so, she once called in to a radio show to share some of them.
‘‘He was grilling up some mushrooms one day and asked if I wanted some,’’ she remembered.
‘‘As he was scooping them onto my plate he said, ‘You’d better not have too many, otherwise you won’t have mush room for anything else!’
‘‘I think if he could speak to us now he probably wouldn’t be able to resist making some inappropriate jokes about his death to cheer us up.
‘‘If I told you Dad had some good beach puns he’d quickly butt in, ‘Are you shore?’, ‘We’ll have to sea about that’.’’
As Dr Dyer would no longer be ‘‘giving his everything for people in need’’, his family has chosen to support the Agape Home refuge in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for children with HIV. Donations can be made via Agape Cottage, BSB: 802-101, member number: 96171, with the reference: In Memory of Ross Dyer.