Clarence robbed of chance to farewell a Valley legend
THE coronavirus pandemic has robbed the Clarence Valley of giving one of its leading legal, community and sporting figures the send off he deserved.
A family gathering of eight people farewelled Raymond Burridge at a quiet funeral in Yamba on Tuesday.
Mr Burridge died peacefully on March 26 and the Burridge family would have preferred to send their patriarch out on a high note.
Son Mark Burridge said his dad deserved a good show, but the COVID-19 regulations put a stop to it.
"It would have been a church service and a wake for all and sundry," Mr Burridge said.
"It would have been a big affair, I expect, because dad knew so many people from his work, community service, life saving and swimming."
He said many people in the Clarence would not have realised his father already had an extensive legal career when he arrived in Grafton in 1975.
"Dad had practice in Forestville - Burridge and Legg - that he and his partner opened in 1961," Mr Burridge said.
"The business is still going and from what I understand his partner still goes into the office."
He said the move from Sydney was to 'take a bit of a break'.
"He bought a cattle property at Dalmorton and was running that for a while," he said.
"But I suppose he got restless and decided he wanted to go back into law."
A partner in the firm he established in the late 1970s, Amanda Steiner described the firm's founder as "the perfect boss and father-in-law.
"He was someone you could always rely on," she said.
Ms Steiner, who is married to Mark Burridge, said her father-in-law had not been able to stay away from law, even while he ran his cattle property.
"He was working one day a week with David Miller and eventually took over the practice.
She said first Ron Harris and then Scott Flynn came into the firm as partner and she joined the practice later.
By the early 2000s and aged 67, she her boss was ready to follow through on retirement this time.
Ray Burridge proved he had much more to offer the community than his law practice.
"Dad's been on the boards of the Susan Island Trust, Caringah and the Grafton Regional Art Gallery," Mr Burridge said.
"When he was in Sydney he was involved in the Rotary and Lions clubs and served on the committee of the Catholic Church here and in Sydney."
Sport and in particular surf life saving and masters swimming were another passion Ray Burridge threw himself into.
"He was a founding member of the Grafton Aussies Masters Swimming Club and when he moved to Yamba, founded the Clarence River Masters Swimming Club," he said.
His passion for surf life saving was both competitive and administrative.
He served a total of nine years in two terms as president of the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, where he rubbed shoulders with Bill and Jim Dougherty.
Bill remembers a man at home in the water and especially the surf.
"He was a brilliant body surfer and a brave bugger in the surf," Bill said. "The bigger the waves, the better he liked it."
Jim said Ray Burridge was always a leader.
"He had two terms as president of the club, first in the 1980s and then another five years from 2004-2009," he said.
"He was at the helm when the club celebrated it's centenary in 2008, which was a big thing for us.
"At the same time he was heavily involved in setting up Masters swimming in Yamba.
"He was a real leader in everything he did."
Not even a stroke he suffered early in 2009 could stop him. Less than a year later, he was back competing for your in the NSW Country Championships.
But son Mark said while he "recovered pretty well" from the stroke it had weakened him.
"More recently he had a couple more minor strokes which had affected his mobility.
"He couldn't get around much and he couldn't get out in surf and the pool," he said.
Ray also missed wife, Margaret, who predeceased him by more than five years and who proved an admirable foil for her husband's more expansive personality.
He was also a loving father and father-in-law to Robyn, Mark and Amanda, Craig, Maree and Damian.
He was also "Big Ray" to Josh, Nick, Hollie, Zach and Maddie and great-grandfather to Ava, Lillie, Ivy, Archie and Clara.