Denis Gregory epitomised what it means to be a journalist.
He had a curious mind and wasn't afraid to ask questions.
He had a keen nose for a story and invariably his hunches turned out to be correct.
However, most of all, he wanted the stories he wrote to make a difference to the everyday lives of the people in his community and beyond.
Mr Gregory was very sociable and loved being around people, and was always quick to say yes to an invite for a beer with his mates or a meal with his family.
Even during his recent hospital stays he'd ask his visitors to sit a little longer and chat, or simply pull up a seat and just keep him company as he rested.
While his personal interests covered everything from motor racing to motor bikes and NRL football, he was driven by a desire to shine a light on the lives of people who live in country Australia.
He spent a lifetime, more than 60 years, working in country newspapers and journalism, where he managed to make a difference in so many ways.
He began work in 1953 with the Central Western Daily as an apprentice printer because no journalism cadetships were available. As a result of his love of writing he did regular articles for the newspaper on a variety of topics, including motoring journalism, while he worked as a printer.
A journalism vacancy eventually came up and he was transferred to the editorial staff where he was given the job of local government and police rounds.
He worked his way through the ranks to fill most senior positions at the paper.
For five years in the late 1960s and early 1970s he was editor of the Orange News Pictorial, which he founded and was eventually sold to the then Central Western Daily owners, Western Newspapers Pty Ltd.
He then returned to the Central Western Daily as a sub-editor and reporter.
For many years while he was with the Central Western Daily he worked alongside young cadets, who, like journalists on most country newspapers, had to become proficient in all types of reporting from flower shows and festivals to local government, police rounds and local, District and Supreme court.
Many of the newspaper's cadets he influenced throughout the years went on to much bigger things.
One became editor of the Sydney Morning Herald while another was managing editor of the London Times while former cadets edited country newspapers or worked in television. Several worked for Australian embassies and many owe at least some of their success to the lessons Mr Gregory taught them.
In 1988 Mr Gregory left Western Newspapers to write country stories for the Sydney Morning Herald and magazines such as the Woman's Weekly, Country Style and Australasian Post and then became the country correspondent for the Sun Herald for 12 years until 2000.
Although based at Orange, he travelled hundreds of kilometres a week throughout country NSW and established an amazing network of contacts, including mayors, council general managers, tourist officers, business people and battlers who contacted him when they wanted to pursue a community issue. He was committed to ensuring health facilities, government departments, policing and banking still serviced small communities across NSW.
He took up the country cause wherever a community looked like losing out and won many of the battles, particularly on health and policing. He also campaigned for better roads and rail services for country NSW.
His work has been recognised by his peers, with him winning a string of state and national awards for excellence in journalism. He was even awarded an Order of Australia Medal for his services to country journalism.
He wrote several books including Camden Park as well as a light-hearted book about the colourful characters he's met in his extensive travels called There's Some Bloody Funny People on the Road to Broken Hill and It's All About Australia, Mate. He also produced several wonderful books in collaboration with his great friend, photographer Alf Manciagli.
Mr Gregory always had a keen interest in politics and worked as the media adviser to the country-based Deputy President of the Senate Sue West and served as an Orange councillor from 1972-1974.
In fact Orange mayor Reg Kidd and councillors stood for a minute's silence at this week's Orange City Council meeting in memory of Mr Gregory and all he had contributed to our community.
While he had been responsible for organising Orange's two day Enduros for the motorcycle club, in later years would be best known as the president of the Gnoo Blas Classic Car Club; a true passion project for the one-time racing car driver.
He continued to write his weekly column Stop Press for the Central Western Daily until shortly before his death, even filing from Orange Hospital.
In the end Mr Gregory couldn't beat cancer but he gave it a bloody courageous try.
His family and many friends are battling to come to terms with his loss but his many achievements, his bright mind and loving nature, will never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to have known him.
- Denis Gregory was Central Western Daily editor Tracey Prisk's much-loved uncle.
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