HUNTER MP Joel Fitzgibbon has paid tribute to one of his biggest inspirations – his father Eric, who died at the weekend at the age of 78.
A former Cessnock City councillor and mayor, Eric Fitzgibbon was also Hunter MP for 12 years from 1984.
He was succeeded in the seat of Hunter by his son Joel.
“My father was a popular MP because he was a hard-working local member – and a true champion of the region,” he told The Argus on Sunday morning.
“My parents fell in love with Cessnock when dad was appointed to a teaching position here more than 50 years ago.
“He played for our beloved Cessnock Goannas, served on council for 15 years, including a term as mayor, and was active in local service and sporting clubs.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said his father also loved the Labor Party and all it stood for.
“He had a happy but financially modest upbringing, so he had great empathy for people on low incomes,” Joel said.
“He was a Life Member of the Party.”
Eric Fitzgibbon grew up in Nambucca Heads and trained at the then Newcastle Teachers College.
He later completed a BA by external studies through UNE and taught English and history at Cessnock High School for almost two decades.
“To me, he was both a great father and political mentor,” Joel said.
“I will always be grateful for his support and guidance.
“Dad had spent the last few months in a dementia ward at St Joseph’s Calvary in Sandgate.
“He went peacefully and painlessly surrounded by his family.
“We are very thankful for the care he received there.
“My mother, Anne, is fit and well and enjoys strong family support.
“And, we thank everyone for the overwhelming messages of sympathy and support.”
Eric Fitzgibbon is survived by wife Anne, children Mark, Joel, Alison, Therese and his grandchildren.