Simon Ingram's last words to his beloved wife Belinda were to ask if she could keep the kids awake until he arrived home. Mr Ingram, late of Lake Macquarie, had been playing a round of golf at Bonville, south of Coffs Harbour, with friends and had changed his tee time so he could make it home to see his children off to bed.
When he didn't arrive as expected Mrs Ingram tried to call, but couldn't get through. Jacob, 11, and Macy, 5, waited up as long as they could to see their dad. They were asleep when the police arrived to tell Mrs Ingram that her husband of nine years had died in a freak accident when a tree suddenly fell on his moving vehicle as it entered a rest stop on the Pacific Highway at Kundabung, south of Kempsey, on Tuesday, November 24.
Mr Ingram's two friends, a man and woman in the front seats of the car, had miraculously escaped with only minor injuries, but Mr Ingram tragically died at the scene. He was 48 years old.
Mrs Ingram has been left devastated. "Devastated for my children," she said through tears. "They have lost the most amazing person who loved them unconditionally."
Mr Ingram's sister, Rebecca Smith, remembers him as a deeply protective and loving brother, father and friend. She said his children had been a saving grace through the trauma of his loss.
"Simon was nearly four when I was born," she said, "He was such a soft-natured child. I was always a bit of a ratbag. I remember my dad saying how he would watch us walk to school, and Simon would be holding my hand. I would let go and run across the street, and he would be horrified. He was always that really protective big brother.
"The hardest thing to fathom is, however long I live, I will be in a world without him. I have been at Simon's home most of the time, and it has been hard without him, but the children fill the house with laughter and Macy is so beautiful and hilarious, it's impossible to be sad."
Mr and Mrs Ingram met as young university graduates working bars in Cairns in the late '90s and travelling around the country. They fell in love but were forced apart when Mrs Ingram returned to her home town of Adelaide for work, and Mr Ingram returned to Sydney.
One night, Mrs Ingram received a knock on her door and opened to find Mr Ingram on her doorstep.
"He didn't have much money then," she recalled fondly, "so, he hitched a truck from Sydney to Adelaide. I remember when he knocked on the door and how surprised I was and how awesome that was. We realised we wanted to be together. We've been together ever since."
"The thing about Simon is that, once you met him you were a life-long friend," Matt Huckerby of Newcastle said, remembering his close friend. "I moved from Parkes to Newcastle in 1988 when I was 15 and coming from a small country town to Newcastle - there were too many people and too many buses. I didn't surf or skate; I didn't do any of the things that people here did. But, I was lucky enough to meet Simon in high school, and he introduced me to his friends. We just clicked straight away.
"He was one of those guys who, no matter what group you operated in, people would gravitate to him. He had this real charm about him where he could put people at ease."
Mr Huckerby, who had lost his father to pancreatic cancer only the Friday before Mr Ingram's death, recalled the last time he spoke with his best friend.
"The last time I spoke with Simon was him picking up the phone to check on me; to make sure that I was ok," he said. "When things were at their worst, that was when he was at his best. He always knew what to do and what to say. The way I'm getting through is just to keep on thinking 'What would Simon do?' and then do it."
Mr Huckerby remembers Mr Ingram as a man of the Hunter who loved his sport and music, a man who followed his local teams and small bands as much as his stadium heroes.
"He loved his sport," Mr Huckerby said. "He followed just about everything, was at all the home games. But his big love was golf.
"He understood that it's about was more than just the score at the end of the game. It was the bond that you developed with your team and your opponents. It was like a metaphor for his life. It was the chats between shots and the beers after the round."
Mr Ingram is survived by his young children in whose character Mrs Ingram remembers her cherished husband. Macy inherited her father's quick wit and sense of humour. Jacob, his love of sport and deep passion for music.
"He made them who they are," she said. "The little characters that they are.
"He was a very humble person. He taught himself to play guitar and he was always saying how bad he was. But, he played every day and got pretty good. At least, I thought he was.
"He only played for himself and for us.
"Jacob loves his sport and his music like his dad. He gave that gift to him. And Macy, when she was one, and Simon was playing, she would be jigging up and down while her dad played on the lounge."
In the weeks before the accident, Mr and Mrs Ingram were able to take their son to see their favourite band, Bondi Cigars, at Rathmines Theatre.
"They were the band that Simon and I always went to see whenever they were on," she said.
"We had our honeymoon in Cairns because we knew they were playing there. We got the chance to take Jacob down there.
"It wasn't that long ago that we were planning to do that more and more. Now, we can't."
Mr Ingram will be laid to rest in his home suburb of Fishing Point, remembered fondly by his close friends and family.
"There were no people who knew Simon momentarily," Mr Huckerby said. "Once you were in the group, you were in forever."
In a statement, Mr Ingram's employers at Rydges in Newcastle described him as a critical part of the business and a mentor to so many junior staff.
"He was never too busy to stop and help someone out, or simply listen. Simon was incredibly hardworking, honest, loyal, reliable and genuine, which is why he was so well respected by his colleagues," a spokesperson said."He is someone that can never be replaced and will be greatly missed by everyone that he has worked with."
"He was the kind of person who still has friends from preschool," Mrs Smith said.
"He was always the one who, when terrible things happened, I looked to him for what to do.
"It's hard not to have that guide."
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