‘I didn’t know what it meant to miss you’
Shaking with emotion, Renee Salway placed a sunflower on her husband's gleaming white casket, gently stroked it and muttered "goodbye."
Beside her, her mother-in-law Janelle laid a white rose on her husband Robert's coffin and silently bowed before collapsing at her son's Patrick's gravesite.
The Salway dairy farmers were committed to the ground at an emotional funeral service at Corbago Cemetery yards from where they died defending their farm from the New Year's Eve horror bushfires that ravaged the NSW south coast.
"I love you Patrick, I loved you from the first day I saw you," Patrick's widow Renee told the 2000-strong congregation.
"My darling, life-loving, fun, outgoing Patrick, you filled our lives with laughter and adventure," she said tears rolling down her eyes.
"Life was great together, perfect in our eyes. I didn't know what it meant to miss you until I reached for your hand and you weren't there.
"Over a coffee we would speak of things we loved and appreciated.
"We spoke of the future and one was our plan to renew our vows which I will share with you, they still run true six years on.
"I loved you from the moment I met you and I always will.
"You are my inspiration, my strength and my whole heart.
"You made me happier than I could ever imagine.
"I will share with you everything so you will always know truly and fully forever who I am for as long as I live".
Robert, 63, died of a heart attack defending the family 600 acre property from a fire generated tornado in the Wandella Valley.
Janelle, who was at the property helping her husband and son tackle ember showers, found their bodies in the same paddock.
Family friend Tony Allen told the largely Akubra hat-wearing mourners: "Robert always said you need to fight the bush before it gets you, it got him.
"He and Patrick epitomised heroism of Anzac proportions.
"Every heart is bleeding and will continue to bleed for years to come as a result of those fires.
"The Salway hearts are broken."
He Remembered Robert as a highly respected cattle judge who could pick a cow off colour or best cow in the herd.
"He had the eye. He was also a best mate outside the ring and devoted and proud grandpa (of 20)," he said.
Successful horseshow competitor Patrick's biggest achievement was to become father to son Harley, three.
"They were best mates."
Mourners queued to join the flower tribute to Patrick and Robert whose coffins were adorned with an angle grinder and Akubra hat respectively.
Celebrant and family friend Nel Reeve Pay tribute to Roberts battered Akubra on his coffin telling mourners: "The hat on Robert's (casket) it's not his first but the angle grinder was Patrick's first, He's always fixing things, he was great with his hands, you could pick up a
guitar or fix a broken fence.
"When I saw Robert's hat, I thought it was for his 21st birthday but Janelle said it was only eight years old, it just shows how dedicated he was to farm life and hard work.
"Harley, just like dad, had his own toolbox on his father's ute.
"Whatever daddy did he was there helping on the farm.
"Harley loved his poppy.
"This little man lost two important role models in his life but, he has the love of the Salways.
"Like Patrick said, 'you'll be right.'"