Vale Alex Hilling

HIS was the voice Coffs Harbour woke up to ? loud, bright, irreverent and littered with wit and caring.

Now tragically it is silent.

Alex Hilling, Star-FM's morning announcer, died at his home on Sunday morning. He was 32.

Alex was born in Albany, Western Australia, the only son of Rod and Lesley Hilling, brother of April and Pia.

His mother said his first contact with radio came via a community station while he was finishing high school in Cairns.

"He even worked in a menswear shop until a graveyard shift came up in Cairns," Lesley Hilling said.

"He was just desperate to make a career in radio."

Stints in Mareeba and Gladstone followed before he headed south.

Alex arrived in Coffs Harbour in June, 1997, to launch 'Revolution', which later became Hot-FM and then Star-FM.

"He absolutely loved radio," said close friend and colleague Kate Kelly.

"He was the consummate professional and was always keen to teach the rest of us everything he knew."

Star-FM promotions' manager Tracey Fox recalled that he also had some interesting idiosyncracies.

"Alex often used to ride his bicycle to work, and be at the station by 5am, and he never wore shoes when he was on-air," Tracey said.

"And he always used to jiggle his legs under the table. He was full of nervous energy."

After a 12-month break running 'Molly Malones' fish shop Alex returned to StarFM in 2003.

Apart from giving Coffs Coast residents plenty of reasons to rise and shine, Alex was also a proud supporter of his community.

"He would never say no to any charity that needed help, and he always did his best to make sure their events were successful," his girlfriend Jeni Faulkner said.

"He was just a huge personality and would go out of his way to make sure everyone around him was having a good time."

Alex's efforts came to the fore with his annual appeal for the Children's Ward at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

"It was his baby and he threw himself into it totally," said Tracey Fox.

In three appeals between 2002 and 2004 Alex raised more than $195,000 for the ward. That outstanding effort was recognised by the radio industry Australiawide when he won a RAWARD in 2003.

"He was so excited with the award he actually lost it in a nightclub when we were out celebrating in Sydney," Ms Faulkner said.

To Alex's relief, and embarrassment, the statuette eventually turned up at 2DAY-FM.

Alex's funeral service will be held at 10am tomorrow at Coffs Harbour Crematorium at Karangi.

No doubt friends and colleagues will then retire to a familiar watering hole to celebrate the memory of a man who was larger and louder than life, despite his protestations that 'I'm just a quiet little wallflower'.

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