The family and friends of Jake Walton have remembered the 20-year-old as a young man who earned respect and gave it back in spades.
Jake died on Saturday night after being pulled unconscious from the Macquarie River near Geurie.
Desperate attempts by friends and medical crews to revive him were unsuccessful, and his death has cast a massive shadow over various sections of the community.
An integral member of the region’s agriculture industry through his work with the family business Walton Rural Supplies, Jake was also prominent in rugby union and crossfit circles.
He leaves behind a heartbroken family consisting of parents Dean and Annette, sister Amy, their wider families, as well as a shattered group of friends, young and old.
“It would have been his 21st in three weeks,” Dean Walton said on Monday.
“Jake had a very, very good rapport with all the clients that dealt with. He was just a very well-liked kid because of how he went about things.
“He left school a week after his 16th birthday to come and work with me, and we were working towards him taking over the running of the business one day.
“You only have to look at Facebook and all the messages coming through. He was just a salt of the earth kid.
“He would give you the shirt off his back. If someone needed something he’d make sure they got it, or if someone was doing it tough he’d make sure they were looked after. He would always go above and beyond.”
As well as being a hard worker, Jake was also an active young man.
He was a member of the Dubbo Kangaroos rugby club, and in recent times had turned his hand to crossfit.
“He always loved his footy. He played cricket early on but loved his footy, and his fitness and crossfit, he really found that and made it a big part of his life,” Mr Walton said.
“The crossfit community thought very highly of him. It was nothing for him to get up at 4.45am, go to crossfit, do his training, then go to work by 7.30am.
“Then he would leave work and go back to crossfit and get home by 8pm.”
As with most young men, Jake had a bit of larrikin in him but according to his former rugby coach Ben Mastronardi, he was a born leader.
“He was the type of kid who before every session would be asking “what do i need to do?”, “what do i need to improve on?”, or “how can I get better?” Mr Mastronardi said..
“He would be the first to training, and would set up drills himself.
“Before every session he’d have 30 minutes set up, not for him but just so everyone else could get better. That’s really just the kind of guy he was.”
A MESSAGE FROM CROSSFIT DUBBO
- The following message was sent to Jake’s parents from the proprietors of Crossfit Dubbo, and is reproduced with the permission of the Walton family.
Jake was the heart and soul of Crossfit Dubbo.
A talented athlete, loyal, thoughtful, hardworking, and a heart of pure gold.
Wise beyond his 20 years, Jake was loved and respected by everyone young and old.
More than a friend, he was a brother and a son to us all.
We are so proud of the man he was and our lives are better for having known him.
Words cannot describe how deeply Jake's absence will be felt, nor express how much he will be missed.