MURWILLUMBAH has lost one of its favourite sons, a man who built a multinational business right in the heart of the Northern Rivers for the benefit of the community he loved.
Earle James Williams was a larger-than-life character whose legacy will live on throughout the area.
His journey began in 1927 when he was born at a farm in Tyalgum.
Mr Williams and his late brother Harry, took over their father's seed and produce store in 1953 and JH Williams and Sons was born.
The company, involved in building supplies, produce, seed export and import, timber and a florist, now employs 250 people across Murwillumbah, Ballina, Casino, Byron Bay, Goonellabah and Southport.
His friend Tom Senti delivered the eulogy at the All Saints Anglican Church in Murwillumbah for the man known to his friends as "E.J.".
Mr Williams was the first person to greet Mr Senti when he arrived in Murwillumbah 33 years ago and that friendship endured.
"As history now shows, Earle and his brother Harry had become the driving force behind the rapidly growing business," Mr Senti said.
"Earle was known to say part of his success in life was due to the love and support of the 'local girl' he married."
Mr Williams married Alice McDonald in 1953.
As well as family and business, his other great passions were golf and farming.
"Earle was also involved in the exporting of locally bred zebu cattle to South-East Asia," Mr Senti said.
"On many occasions he would oversee the delivery of the shipment by travelling with them on the cargo planes."
Mr Williams was also awarded life membership of the NSW Golf Association and the Centenary Medal from the Federal Government for his service to the sport.
"Earle was also awarded life membership of the Murwillumbah Golf Club where he holds the record for the longest serving board member after 40 years of service," Mr Senti said.
Mr Williams was the president of the Northern Rivers Golf Association for 20 years.
"Some of Earle's other sporting interests included being a director and secretary of the Cudgen Football Club and a number of years involved in the operation of the Cudgen Headland Surf Club," Mr Senti said.
"While success can be measured in many ways there is no doubt that Earle Williams in his passing leaves behind a legacy which he, Alice and the Williams family, current and future generations, can be proud of."