It could be 3am and Jim Hickson would answer the call from some desperate soul on the brink.
He would go out to meet them in the club, or in a gutter somewhere, or in their car parked near the top of a cliff as they sat inside and entertained the devastating possibility of going over.
But Mr Hickson never went to meet them alone - he and wife Norma did just about everything together.
He knew from personal experience the gambler's torment; she knew the wife's.
Mr Hickson died on Tuesday, four days before his 84th birthday and four years after Norma succumbed to lung cancer.
The veteran anti-gambling campaigners devoted decades to helping the Illawarra's addicted, using their own money to finance the associated phone calls, petrol, loans and meals.
Their crusade began in 1980, soon after Mr Hickson was sentenced to community service for embezzling money in order to feed his chronic gambling habit.
The incident, together with Mrs Hickson's steady counsel, was the kick in the pants he needed.
He overcame his 42-year-old penchant for the horses, trots and greyhounds, and set out on what became a life-long campaign of helping others, eldest son Russell Hickson said.
"He virtually did a 180-degree turn in his life," he said.
"He was a very determined man. He wouldn't back away from a problem, he'd take it head-on."
In 1995 Mr and Mrs Hickson established the telephone counselling service Gambler's Help Line, and ran it from their Berkeley home. At its height, the service received 40 calls a week.
Outside the gambling arena he was a coalminer, an orchid-lover and a stalwart of his four children's various sporting communities.
He started or helped to establish the Berkeley Sports and Social Club, Berkeley United Junior Soccer Club (now Berkeley Soccer Club), and Berkeley Junior Cricket Club, and later was an advocate for the disabled as part of Illawarra Advocacy.
In 1999 he stood on the Responsible Gambling Party ticket for election to the NSW Upper House.
In recent years he used the Mercury's letters page to voice his criticism of poker machines and the clubs industry.
"He let it be known to politicians, the media and secretary managers of leagues clubs," Russell Hickson said.
Mr Hickson is survived by sons Russell, Gary and Terry Hickson; daughter Cheryl Lawler, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
Family and friends of Mr Hickson are invited to his funeral service at Northcliffe Chapel of Hansen and Cole on Wednesday.