A MUCH-LOVED father and a loyal friend to the end.
That is how Steve Cloake - who put up a brave fight against cancer after being diagnosed less than a year ago - is being remembered in the wake of his death.
The Tamworth man lost his hellish battle with Metastatic Bone Disease and Adrenal Metastasis surrounded by family last Wednesday – just weeks after he watched his son graduate from Goulburn Police Academy in December and walked his youngest son to his first day of kindergarten earlier this year.
Steve stopped working following his initial diagnosis due to the physical nature of his job, and wife Naomi has been on leave without pay from her job as an early childhood educator since the end of 2017 to care for Steve as his health continued to deteriorate.
Now the community is rallying behind Naomi and their nine children, aged five to 25, to raise money for the struggling family.
Steve had been suffering chest pain for about a year prior to being diagnosed with cancer in early March last year.
“We were just devastated,” Naomi said.
“It’s really heartbreaking because you just think they’re always going to be around forever.”
Steve fought the diagnosis head-on, with 10 rounds of radiation and six cycles of chemotherapy.
“He was so unwell,” Naomi said.
“But he was always so stubborn.
“He didn’t want to go in (to hospital) because he was scared he wouldn’t come out.
“He was such an old-school tough nut.”
Despite his tough exterior, Steve was a doting family man.
“He was an old-school hard-arse guy, but if you’ve got a relationship with him, you’ve earned it,” Naomi said.
“Once you had it, he was the most loyal bloke on the planet.
“He was such an honourable man.”
Naomi praised the support from staff at Tamworth hospital and Nioka, where he died with Naomi by his side last Wednesday, at the age of 58.
“Once he got to a restful stage, he was really peaceful,” Naomi said.
“I jumped into bed with him, saw liquid in his eye and thought nothing of it, but then saw a tear and that’s when he died.”
A gofundmepage has been set up to help the family focus their energy on spending quality time together without the stress of immediately returning to work or paying the bills.
“As you can imagine, they are under financial pressure,” the page reads.
“They have had Steve’s medical expenses, rent, bills, groceries, lack of income over the last 12 months, and now, the cost of a funeral.
“Add to this, the ongoing loss of a second income.
“You can see how the family would now be under a great deal of stress while their energies would be better spent starting to navigate their life without their dad and husband.
“A life that will not include Steve at graduations, weddings, Christmas or any of the times we all just want to spend with our family.
“Times that many of us take for granted.”
To contribute to the fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/support-the-cloake-family