Ray loved the sea
By GRAEME SINGLETON
IT is never easy losing a husband or father, but the family of Ray Babbage, who was found dead in the surf at Diggers Beach on Wednesday morning, have been able to find some solace in his passing.
"That's the way he would have wanted to go," Mr Babbage's son, Scott, said yesterday.
"He loved to surf. He'd surf every morning and afternoon, and in the school holidays if the swell and conditions were right he'd hit the waves three or four times a day."
The death of the popular local teacher, family man and all-round water sports fanatic, at the age of 53, has shocked all who knew him.
"Dad had never been fitter," Scott said.
"Only last week he said he was feeling the healthiest he had ever been. He said he felt like a 17-year-old."
Yesterday, the coroner had still not determined why or how Mr Babbage died.
Born in Coffs Harbour, Mr Babbage returned home after college to begin a 32-year career as a teacher.
He spent 20 years at the Coffs Harbour Public School and had notched up 12 years at Boambee Public at the time of his death.
Former students and colleagues yesterday spoke glowingly of his dedication and commitment to his pupils and profession.
"He was one of those teachers who really stood out. He was a really good bloke who always looked after us," former student Corey Haagsma said.
Mr Babbage married Rosie Maione in 1976 and away from school indulged a love of his family and all things aquatic.
"He just loved the water," Scott said.
"He started sailing hobie cats about 30 years ago, but got really involved when my sister Tina and I came along.
"Dad was very active in organising junior sailing at both the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club and Bellinger River Sailing Club, and then through the North Coast Academy of Sport (NCAS)."
According to the commodore of the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club, Mr Babbage made an unsurpassed contribution to local sailing.
"His involvement in the NCAS was huge and brought a whole new level of sailing to the region," Paul Jolly said. "He was so so well respected and we are all so much better off for what he did for the club and local juniors."
Mr Babbage is survived by his wife, Rosie, and children, Tina and Scott.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at the southern end of Diggers Beach next Friday, beginning at 7am.