Parks ranger will be missed
FOR many of those who knew him, Aaron Harber was the larrikin life of the party, quick with the quips and practical jokes, described by his colleagues at Dorrigo National Park as the ‘glue of the office’.
Yesterday, flags outside the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre hung at half-mast and staff members were in mourning for their friend, who died tragically on Wednesday, when the helicopter he was in crashed in a nearby paddock minutes after take-off.
But Aaron was much more than a National Parks ranger.
He was husband to university sweetheart Jane and proud father of Tom, 13 and Sam, 12.
He was a mad keen sportsman, active in the Dorrigo community as secretary of the Dorrigo Highlands Football (Soccer) Club and captain of the men’s third division premiership winning team.
It was he who kicked the winning goal in the grand final.
He was also coach of the boys’ Under-13 Dorrigo Dragons, a team in which both his boys played, plus he was part of the summer six-a-side Urunga team, where he actively mentored the junior players he played with.
His wife Jane said Aaron was a much-loved mentor for a number of kids who had lost their fathers in the community.
“He was a very gentle man, and one of the strongest men I have ever met – physically, emotionally and mentally,” Jane said.
The demands on a National Parks ranger are many but even so Aaron found time to pursue a swag of other interests, among them his passion for indigenous rights and affairs.
He was part-way through a degree in archaeology at the University of New England.
“The best times were when we went on family holidays – wherever we went, Aaron would always disappear, wander off into the bush and invariably return with some tool, explaining to us the intricacies of how it had been sharpened and used,” Jane said.
“Out of respect, he always replaced the artefacts – we never came home with any of them.”
Another passion was snakes and other reptiles.
Aaron was the office expert in all things scaly and frequently called upon to remove snakes from people’s homes, identify photos of various reptiles, not to mention any number of frogs visitors brought to the National Parks office.
He was also the office clown – singing daggy songs on the way to the tea room, stirring people and keeping the laughter flowing in amongst of the intense business of fighting fires and caring for the flora and fauna in his parks.
Head of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Sally Barnes, said the community was truly hurting following the loss of this man, who reportedly had the best Movember moustache and raised the most money in the entire department ($750). His capacity to help others was boundless.