For five exhausting years I was a (minor) manager of a busy but happy team at WorkCover.
Ray was in that team. Late forties but with an open-minded younger attitude, deeply in love with his wife Pat and seemingly in a permanent pose of rocking back at his desk, laughing.
And yet he was intelligent, kind and a hard worker who was always prepared to drop what he was doing and pitch in to do whatever last minute 'this is what the Minister wants' request I'd fling at him. He wasn't interested in corporate jargon, wearing a tie or sucking up to management, but just got on with things. Perfectly.
He once turned up to a dress-up party wearing what seemed like his normal outfit of jeans, sneakers and t-shirt. "Didn't make much of an effort there, Ray."
In mock indignation he said, "Yes I did. What's the colour of my t-shirt?"
He brushed it down. "Exactly. I'm Ray; a Drop of Golden Sun."
I'd tease him about his coffee mug. Ironically this never held coffee as he loathed the stuff, but would have milky tea sloshed in several times a day. The vessel had more rings than Saturn and survived with the Internationally-accepted Office Hygiene Approach of a quick swish under the tap before the next brew. "That mug could have the cure for cancer in it, Ray. If you don't wash it soon the inside'll get too layered and crusty to hold any fluids at all."
He then took to giving it a real clean every fortnightly pay day and would proudly stand at my desk brandishing his sparkling cup. "Kath, because of your nagging, science has been set back a few years."
Overseas holidays were his passion, a relatively recent occurrence due to giving up smoking and saving every single dollar that he would have spent on the cigs. Sapphire still remembers the beautiful fan he gave her from Japan, the sarong from Bali and the delicate hibiscus flower made out of soap from Hawaii.
He died last night from lung cancer. Being the poster boy for the Quit campaign and cleaning his cup didn't succeed in the end and for that I'm truly sorry. Ray was a truly decent, lovely man and my memories of working with him (in a job that backfired for me quite disastrously) are all fond ones.
Walking Milly this morning in between rain showers, I saw this sunflower still blooming in the first days of winter. Rest in peace, dear Ray. I feel so honoured to have known you. You genuinely personified the term 'top bloke.'