DONALD Edmond Hopkins OAM will be fondly remembered as a kind and passionate man who devoted his life to helping others and serving his community.
Don passed away peacefully at his home on October 13, marking the end of an era in local and State racing, but his legacy will live on across the four sectors to which he devoted his life.
Best known locally for his many years with the Taree and Taree Wingham race clubs, Don also focussed his passion in other areas, including education, Rotary and local government.
The racing stalwart, often referred to as the Manning's 'Mr Racing', was formally recognised for his achievements in 2008 when he received a Medal of the Order of Australia, for service to horse racing in New South Wales through executive roles in industry organisations, and to the community of Taree.
"The entire racing industry in NSW as well as the Manning community are much poorer for his passing," said Taree Wingham Race Club chairman, and good friend Greg Coleman.
"He was a very special man and he will be dearly missed."
Don is survived by his wife Trish, along with his three children and their families who have witnessed his drive and passion for his varied commitments.
An eternally humble man, when he was awarded his OAM, Don instead chose to acknowledge all the people who had assisted him in his achievements over the years.
"You think about the other people involved with you that played a big part in making what you've done work," Don said at the time.
"It's the support that makes it successful."
That 'teamwork' concept was especially evident in his work for the education system, in which he was involved from 1960, where he served as district superintendent of Taree district from 1995 to 1997 as well as director of schools at Maitland, cluster director for the Manning district, principal at Taree High School, deputy principal and head teacher of science at Kempsey High School and a teacher at Gunnedah over the years.
Don's achievements in education were many, including the groundbreaking 'Ten Per Cent on Top' program at Taree High School that improved Higher School Certificate performances and was subsequently launched in other schools.
He was also involved in the establishment of vocational education training with TAFE in 1978, a totally new concept that has now become common place.
Don also helped with many community projects through the Rotary Club of Taree, of which he was a member since 1978. A minute's silence was observed for Don at the club's meeting on Monday night.
Over the years he served as club director and a number of roles on the committee, while the driver awareness programs were something he was particularly passionate about.
Don also enjoyed 14 years in local government, serving with Kempsey Municipal, Kempsey Shire and Macleay River County councils as well as being involved in State government bodies.
But it was later in horse racing circles that he would become even better known across the State and beyond.
His roles have included deputy chairman and board member of Racing New South Wales, also serving as chairman of the integrity assurance and licensing committees, a NSW delegate of the Australian Racing Board, a delegate of Racing NSW Country (formerly NSW Country Racing Council), treasurer of Central and Lower Coast Racing Association and chairman, treasurer and life member of Taree-Wingham Race Club.
Don served as deputy chairman of the board of Racing NSW from 2002 to 2008 and was also a director of the Australian Racing Board from 2004 to 2008.
He was awarded life membership of Racing NSW Country in 2008 having served as a director on the NSW Country Racing Council/Racing NSW Country from 1998 until this year.
Don had also been treasurer of Mid North Coast Racing Association from 1979 to 1981, and was a member of NSW Government Senior Executive Services (1989-1997).
Don's input has led to many changes in the way racing is conducted but he always maintained that his involvement in establishing the NSW Country Racing Council was one of the most important, giving country clubs a fair go.
He developed his passion for the sport in his early teens and has also had success as an owner, with two victories in the Taree Cup, with Forerunner in 1974 and Shoemaker in 2001, two of his proudest moments.
At a local level, he was most proud of the construction of the Winning Post Function Centre, considering the many organisations that worked together on the project and the benefits for both the club and the community.
"Don Hopkins was 'Mr Racing' in Taree," said Greater Taree City Council mayor Paul Hogan this week.
"Taree Wingham Race Club would never be in the position it is today without Don. It's all due to his hard work and passion."
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'Landys also acknowledged Don's passing, calling him "a warrior for country racing".
"In my time at Racing New South Wales I have never met a person who was more dedicated and passionate about country racing," V'Landys said.
"An extremely intelligent man, Don was as good a racing administrator as I have met and was highly respected and very popular with his peers. Don's passing is a great loss not only to his family, but for the racing industry.
"People like Don come along once in a generation and he will be impossible to replace."
Don's funeral service is being held at St John's Church, at 10am tomorrow (Thursday).