Illawarra surf lifesaving legend Bill Seay is being remembered as a ‘’true gentleman’’.
Mr Seay died in hospital on Monday aged 88 after a short illness, and is survived by his two daughters Louise and Carolyn.
A life member of Port Kembla Surf Life Saving Club, Surf Life Saving Illawarra and Surf Life Saving NSW, he was most at home beside – or in – the ocean.
Also a founding member of the Wollongong Whales Winter Swimming Club, he clocked up 1000 club swims a decade ago leading to the creation of a perpetual trophy, the Bill Seay 1000.
Back in 2002 his services to the community and surf lifesaving were officially recognised when he received an Order of Australia Medal, and in 2009 he told the Mercury why it remained a passion.
‘’I enjoy the fact that you are there and talking to the public,’’ he said at the time. ‘’You are out there in a healthy environment. If I didn't enjoy it, then I wouldn't still do it. It keeps you young.’’
Mr Seay spent four years as the president of Surf Life Saving Illawarra, and on Tuesday the organisation’s representative Anthony Turner paid tribute to him.
‘’Bill was a true gentleman with a wonderful sense of humour,’’ Mr Turner said. ‘’He always had an ear to listen and had all the time in the world for a chat.
‘’He was passionate about surf lifesaving and had a great love for the ocean.
‘’He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.’’
Port Kembla SLSC president David Erskine said it was Mr Seay who had showed him the ropes when he took on the main role.
‘’Bill joined the club in 1949 and was on the executive for 38 years, holding various positions including president, secretary and treasurer,’’ he said. ‘’He was such a great source of advice and support for everyone – and an inspiration to us all.
‘’He loved the water and he loved helping people – and he always had a big smile on his face.’’
Many offered their condolences on the club’s Facebook page, where there was a common theme among the comments. ‘’RIP Bill – the gentleman lifesaver,’’ wrote one, while another remembered him as a ‘’gentleman of the sea’’.
Whitlam MP Stephen Jones also paid tribute to a man who had given so much back to his local community. ‘’He was a wonderful man and a hardworking volunteer right up to his last days.’’
It’s been a tough week for the region’s surf lifesaving community after the death of ironman champion and former Thirroul resident Dean Mercer on Monday morning on the Gold Coast.
Mercer’s car crashed through a fence at Mermaid Waters after the 47-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest behind the wheel.
Tributes have poured in from all over the country and SLSI’s Mr Turner also offered his condolences to the Mercer family on Tuesday.
‘’Dean was a life member of Thirroul SLSC, former member of Austinmer SLSC and currently a member of Kurrawa SLSC,’’ he said.
‘’Beginning his lifesaving career as a nipper in the local area, he represented Illawarra, NSW, QLD and the green and gold of Australia.
‘’Amongst his many achievements, Dean won two Australian Ironman Championships (1989 and 1995) and etched his name into the history of the Kelloggs Nutri Grain Series.
‘’His legacy will live on in the surf sports arena due to his character, statue and commitment – he took the biggest waves, had the biggest heart and always had a smile on his face.’’