Friends and family gathered to farewell beloved Ballarat teacher James Petrie at a church service on Thursday afternoon.
St Patrick's Cathedral was packed with people, while more than 160 others watched the live stream online.
Family members and friends paid tribute to the 33-year-old, who died in February, by sharing precious memories with those in attendance.
James, who grew up in Ballarat as one of four siblings, was remembered as a charismatic person who radiated warmth, had an "infectious smile" and who made instant connections with people.
Attending St Columbus Primary School and then St Patrick's College, he went on to follow in his parents' footsteps in realising his dream to become a teacher. He completed a traineeship in the school's physical education department before undertaking a Bachelor of Education at Federation University.
He began working at Ballarat High in 2012 and was an "exemplary teacher" in both physical education and his work with VCAL students.
"His kind and empathetic nature saw him make connections with staff and students alike," his dad said.
Talented and intelligent, he was remembered as a keen sportsman, passionate fourth-generation family Hawthorn supporter and lover of the outdoors. He was also remembered as a loving and compassionate person who always made time for all of his family and friends, and as a true leader.
One of his lifelong friends told the service James "loved banter" and was in his element with anything to do with sport - particularly soccer and football.
He was involved with Waubra for more than 10 years and played more than 140 games with the club, including as a senior premiership winner in 2019.
His sister, Jess, described her brother as the "most amazing brother" and the "best guy". She detailed memories during the service and said the four siblings were "always there for each other".
"We partied together, cried together, laughed and cried. We were by each other's side through weddings and babies. We only had 33 years with you but they were full of fun, good times and lots of laughs. We have enough memories to last a lifetime... We will love you forever."
His friend Nick said James was always there "for the highs of life but also the lowest of lows. He would go over and above for his friends and family".
"Everyone who knew him will remember his cheeky grin and infectious laugh. So many friends will have countless stories and memories of him laughing with an arm wrapped around your shoulder. He'd have a laugh with you but you could also confide in him and have the meaningful conversations.
"He was a close mate to so many people - it is a real testament to how good a bloke he was and how much he was loved by so many.
"He had a nickname for everyone and most of the time more than one. He had the gift to make strong, lifelong friendships in all walks of life and found the time for every one of them. That's what made him so special to so many people."
The service heard how the past 12 months had been a "true battle" for James, who had been suffering from depression.
His dad said he sought support from his loving partner, family, friends, doctors, counsellors and colleagues.
"To me it was as if James was stranded on a frozen lake. He was in the middle and we could not reach him.
"Last year, as he began to realise something was changing in him, he reached out to seek and search for recovery. He had an extensive support system and he didn't suffer alone."
He said the mental health message was "loud and strong".
"He was proactive and continued to use a variety of sources and did activities to support his mental health like meditation, hiking and listening to podcasts and music," Nick said. "He sought help - he looked for it everywhere.
"To watch the toughest moments and someone you love not get better and back to the guy who loved life is one of the most challenging things you can watch."
He said James' wide circle of loved ones would miss him forever.
"You left wonderful memories with us and your friendships will be forever cherished. We miss you today, love you today, will love you more tomorrow and will miss you even more tomorrow. Goodbye, my friend."
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