Rugby league has lost one of its great stewards with the tragic death of Bemboka’s Dave Wilton, while watching Sunday’s game against Cooma, at the age of 80 from a heart attack.
His wife Elaine, daughter Carolyn and son Graham said the stalwart of the game was at his favourite place, the football.
“We did everything together, we went to the football together, and worked together. ” Elaine said.
“He always loved footy, I think his first blazer was a ‘52 with Bemboka.
“He just loved the camaraderie, and later in life he was a selector in the Country Rugby League, on the judiciary and a selector of referees.
“It came from the respect he showed everybody.”
Graham said people were drawn to his father’s honesty.
“He would tell people what was up, he was a straight shooter. If he didn’t agree with something about football, he’d tell you straight,” he said.
“He’d order the refs a beer at the pub after the game and tell them what they got wrong.
“I’ve met so many people through the game because of him.”
It was Dave’s passion for the game of rugby league that helped foster many young player’s careers, including dual first grade grand finalist Wayne Collins.
However, it was on the field where Dave first built his reputation as a strong player, and was known as a hard worker since leaving school at 14 to work on the family dairy farm.
“He was good on the field,” Elaine said with a smile.
The Bega and Candelo/Bemboka life member taught his children lessons they will never forget.
And he never missed an opportunity to watch them play sport – often standing by the sidelines, as close to the action as he could get.
“He taught us to do what you have to do in life, and treat others how you want to be treated,” his daughter Carolyn said.
Married for 52 years, he met Elaine at a dance at Candelo, where she was drawn by Dave’s strawberry blonde locks.
“The day we got married was the day Bemboka played Candelo, we lost that day and the team is still blaming me apparently,” Elaine said with a laugh.
Dave was loved in the community, she said, and was a busy member of Bemboka’s Lions Club, Bemboka Show committee, fire brigade and cemetery committee.
“He was an old country boy. He didn’t like leaving family farm,” Carolyn said.
His radio still sits in the family kitchen next to the toaster, where he would listen to the radio each morning.
Dave will be farewelled at Bemboka Anglican Church on Saturday, August 12.