Kiama Downs man Michael Waldon was a skilled pilot, keen cyclist, excellent tradesman and a friend to many but the role he most excelled at was being the best dad and grandfather.
His devastated daughters Lauren and Caitlin told the Mercury they were struggling to come to grips with the news their dad would not be coming home.
Mr Waldon, 60, and Richard Kym Caskey, 64, were killed when the light aircraft they were flying hit the ground in a field just south of Orange Regional Airport on Wednesday.
He would drop everything, if any of us needed anything he would just do it.
“We are all a bit of a mess at the moment, but we really appreciate the opportunity to pay our respects to our beautiful dad,” Lauren said. “One of the things we want to say is that the role he excelled in most was as a dad and grandfather. He was the best poppy the kids could have, they love him.”
Mr Waldon was well known in Kiama on the ground and in the air. “He did a lot of joy flights, he took photographers up to get shots of the coastline. Both tourists and locals would go up with him,” Caitlin said.
“When Milk and Honey (cafe) was open, everyone would sit out and have coffee and they could see dad fly over the headland,” she said. “We’ve been up flying with him, it’s an amazing experience, really free.”
Mr Waldon, who had recently moved to Bombo, grew up in Jamberoo and spent the majority of his adult life in Kiama.
“We were in the same house our entire childhood, our dad built it,” Caitlin said, sharing fond memories of life with dad and mum Bronia, whom he was married to for 30 years.
“He was a plumber, a very skillful one. He worked so hard to build a successful business, but flying was always his passion.”
Mr Waldon loved the outdoors, a keen paddle boarder and cyclist. In 2015 he took his youngest daughter Alexia on a motorbike trip around Europe. "It was the best trip he’d ever had, he loved spending time with Lex,” Caitlin said.
Where he shone brightest was in the company of his three grandchildren. Lauren recalls the last time she saw him. “We went to grandparents day at my son’s daycare. I told him he looked like the big friendly giant. Kids were just drawn to him. As soon as he walked into a room with his grandkids no one else mattered. It was just poppy poppy poppy.” When he came to visit Caitlin’s daughter, she would grab his hand and take him away to play. “He would play and read books for hours,” Caitlin said.
Mr Waldon had time for anybody. “His heart was just so big. He was a man of few words," Caitlin said. “He would listen, say ‘good on you’, give you a hug and walk away’ That was the kind of man he was. It meant so much.”