FORMER Newcastle state MP Bryce Gaudry was farewelled in a moving two-hour service at Newcastle City Hall on Thursday afternoon attended by about 400 people.
The ceremony opened with a photo of a smiling Bryce beaming down from the stage toward the audience, as didgeridoo player Perry Fuller played an evocative piece called Yidaki, at one point mimicking the sounds of kangaroos thumping their way on a journey.
Bryce's widow Barbara gave the main eulogy, recounting his progress from a humble upbringing in the bush at Kendall near Taree, through their teaching careers and on to his election to parliament in 1991.
Describing Bryce's political career, Barbara said he was always motivated to do what was right for the community ahead of anything else.
Daughters Justine and Brooke also reflected on their father and his influence on them and others, while Brooke's daughter Hannah - one of four Gaudry grandchildren - was tearful as she spoke of her "grandpa".
Barbara said Bryce's determination to follow his own moral compass cost him progression within the ALP, which was why he decided to stand as an Independent candidate at the 2006 election after he was pushed aside by head office.
Indigenous activist Ray Kelly spoke movingly of a man he described as "a brother, because that's how he embraced me".
The present state Labor member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorp, described Bryce as a mentor and father figure, saying that he was the person he would often turn to in times of difficulty.
"Bryce was a community unto himself, someone people gravitated to when they need assistance or a friendly word," Crakanthorp said.
Although Bryce resigned from the Labor Party before the 2006 election and never rejoined, Barbara said he never lost his "labor values".
This was reflected by the numbers of past and present Labor MPs paying their respects, including Peter and Allan Morris, John Price, Bob Martin, John Mills and Peter Primrose.
MORE TO COME