STAFF and students at Richmond River High School were in mourning last week following the shock news that popular teacher, John 'Dunc' Duncan, had passed away suddenly following a short illness.
While the school remained open last Thursday, classes were suspended so that the school community could attend Mr Duncan's funeral in Lismore.
The widely well-regarded and respected English teacher and gifted debating coach was a favourite among students, who set up a tribute page on Facebook celebrating the impact he had on their lives.
Richmond River High School's head English teacher, Dave Hanley, delivered the eulogy to the packed congregation describing Mr Duncan as a "noble and gentle man and a true friend".
"The notice in the paper yesterday described him as a dedicated teacher," Mr Hanley said. "What an understatement! Yes, he was a dedicated teacher but he was much much more to many people gathered here - testimony to this lies in the many students and ex-students in attendance today.
"Dunc was a much loved and admired year teacher, a passionate and gifted English teacher, a well-respected special education coordinator, an inspirational debating coach, a zealous newsletter and school report proof reader and the taker of photographs anywhere, anytime - as I said, irreplaceable."
Mr Hanley went on to detail the lasting impression Mr Duncan had on school staff, students and the wider community through his generosity of spirit and his "simple, no nonsense approach to teaching".
"It was effective and it worked," he said.
Mr Duncan was known as a humble and compassionate man with a deep intellect across a wide range of interests who always inspired students to achieve their best.
"Personally Dunc was an inspiration, a mentor to me and other members of the English faculty," Mr Hanley told the congregation.
"We sought his advice and point of view because it would be best practice and most certainly always right."
Mr Hanley added that the only flaws in his workmate's character were his sweet tooth, the love of the odd punt and a notoriously messy desk.
"He was a mere man after all," he laughed.
"His recent illness took us his colleagues and students by surprise ... I never for one minute believed he would not recover and return to us."
Mr Duncan is survived by his wife Yolande and sons James and Will.
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