GEOFF Dingle spent the last Sunday of his life in the warm embrace of his family, and with loyal dog Harry by his side.
The former Port Stephens councillor died at 4am on New Year's Eve more than 18 months after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and only two weeks after the Newcastle Herald published his final letter to the editor, showing he remained a champion for the community until the end.
"He was happy to go in to bat for people he knew had been wronged," said wife Libby, who described her husband as "foremost a family man".
"He lived for his family."
Mr Dingle, 69, and his wife moved to Medowie four decades ago. They became fixtures at community events and volunteers with local groups.
Mr Dingle ran the Medowie Scouts group for more than 30 years and was awarded one of the Scouting movement's highest honours for his services.
Mr Dingle was a Port Stephens councillor for more than 13 years until 2017, and memorably clashed with then mayor Bruce MacKenzie and senior council management over a succession of issues, including the transparency of council finances and its handling of controversial developments.
His long-time opposition to the council's handling of the Lagoons development, which included a Supreme Court battle with developer David Vitnell, was vindicated in 2018 when the council quietly conceded defeat in a case that cost ratepayers millions of dollars over decades.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington acknowledged Mr Dingle's repeated attempts to sound the alarm on Lagoons, both in public and during heated confidential council meetings, but "time and again his pleas were ignored".
Ms Washington said Mr Dingle's death was "very sad news for our community" because Port Stephens had lost "a true champion".
"Geoff was a man of principle and a hard worker who put the interests of others before his own. He stood up against corruption and self-interest. His integrity led the charge of change in Port Stephens, forging a path on which I'm now privileged to tread," Ms Washington said.
"Geoff will be missed by many, including myself."
Mrs Dingle said her husband spent Sunday with his family at home and it was a day of love and laughter. Mr Dingle had family photos taken with his wife, mother Gwen, sons Robert, Nicholas and Christopher, daughters-in-law Jessica, Kimberley and Bianca, six grandchildren and Harry, his jack russell.
"It was the nicest end of a life you could have," said a friend who visited in the hours before Mr Dingle was taken to the Mater Hospital by ambulance on Sunday night.
He died peacefully in his sleep, shortly before dawn on New Year's Eve.
Mrs Dingle said there would be no funeral, at Mr Dingle's request, but details of a memorial service will be finalised and announced in the next few days.
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