Inspirational fisherman put family at forefront  

THERE were two things that drove Wayne Bennett throughout his life - family and work.

He was a loving, supportive husband and father to two daughters and a dedicated worker who spent about 35 years with NSW Fisheries.

Wayne was born on February 16, 1955, at Concord Hospital to George and Rose Bennett.

He was the youngest of three children, growing up in the then-rural environment of Caringbah.

Wayne soon took to the water, spending time at the beach and bonding with boats and fishing.

"He never fit into the mould of a city dweller and his love of the sea, fishing and great outdoors grew," brother-in-law Stuart Strickland said.

A huge influence on Wayne's life was his grandfather, William Bennett, or Wiggs.

Wayne's daughter Samantha said the two formed a strong bond and Wiggs acted as a mentor to Wayne in his teenage years.

"Dad would always bring him up," Samantha said. "He really taught him everything and would take him fishing.

"He was dad's father figure."

After finishing his education at Caringbah High School, Wayne worked odd jobs in cleaning and construction before applying to NSW Fisheries in 1976.

It was a perfect match and started Wayne's successful career spanning 35 years as a district fisheries officer in posts at Eden, Wollstonecraft, Batemans Bay, Narrandera, Albury, Tea Gardens and Nelson Bay.

Wayne's life found new meaning while posted in Eden.

It was there he met his future wife, Geraldine Whitby, affectionately known as Chilli.

They married on October 4, 1980, 12 months after first meeting at Eden's Fishermans Club.

The couple welcomed two daughters, Amanda and Samantha, to the family between 1987 and 1989 before moving to Tea Gardens in 1997.

Stuart said Wayne's life was complete after that, and his life revolved around his three girls.

Daughter Samantha said the family were lucky to have had such a great father.

"He didn't have a great childhood but he did everything for us," she said. "He was really close to mum and used to say she was his best friend."

After two years at Tea Gardens Wayne moved to Nelson Bay where he quickly made new, long-lasting friends.

Mark Sherry, Wayne's colleague for 15 years, said he couldn't have asked for a better mate.

"He was the most most genuine, kind-hearted, thoughtful person you could ever meet," he said.

"We went fishing together, everything. I probably spent more time with Wayne than I did with my fiancee.

"He was a dedicated family man and he will be sadly missed."

Wayne unexpectedly passed away on January 31 this year.

His funeral was attended by local police and fishery inspectors from around the state.

Stuart said he set high standards in his workplace, had a great work ethic and inspired those around him.

"We were lucky to have had him in our lives and he will remain in our hearts forever," he said.

MAN OF THE SEA: Former district fisheries officer Wayne Bennett.

MAN OF THE SEA: Former district fisheries officer Wayne Bennett.