Life is still a sea of laughter for cartoonist Hec
HIS real name is Stanley, but everyone knows him as Hec.
He will turn 90 in six months but he has no intention of slowing down and he firmly believes laughter is the best medicine.
A living treasure in the world of marine animal care and the founder of the only dolphinarium in NSW, Coffs Harbour's Dolphin Marine Magic, Hec Goodall pioneered many aspects of the collection, rescue and care of marine animals.
His experience in moving marine mammals from the wild to thrive in a marine zoo environment was sought for a recent international project to save the last of the freshwater dolphins in the polluted Mekong River.
Bureaucratic hurdles and politics in the six nations which share the river neutered the project, designed to move the dolphins to an unpolluted, fenced section of one of the Mekong's' tributaries, but Hec is philosophical - not all battles are winnable, but you have to keep fighting.
The cartoonist, campaigner, conservationist, tourism promoter, researcher, painter and community activist who will celebrate his 90th birthday on August 18, has also recently joined a local community art project.
Hec is among the artists turning Coffs Harbour traffic control signal boxes into colourful works of art.
His signature marine animals and birds are already cavorting at a major intersection.
Born on Philip Island in Victoria and growing up among abundant wildlife on land and sea, one of Hec's early adventures saw him save the remains of the figurehead of the three-masted schooner the SS Speke, wrecked off Philip Island in 1905.
As a schoolboy, Hec rescued what was left of the figurehead not from the water, but from the flourishing weeds in the garden of wealthy industrialist William Thompson, the co-founder of the successful Cyclone company.
Hec helped to have the figurehead repaired and put on public display and it is now a feature of the island's museum, where Hec was able to revisit it last year, while donating some other items to the museum.
Hec has worn many hats in his 89 years and he still wears them lightly, in spite of a recent brush with the operating theatre.
Complications following the fitting of a pacemaker saw him rushed back to hospital over the new year but he has already turned his life-threatening experience into a series of thoroughly politically incorrect cartoons on embarrassing procedures, forthright nurses and fumbling doctors.
Even the animals are close by as he recuperates, with Hec's desk awash with cartoons featuring dolphins, penguins and whales, paintings of ships to be auctioned at fundraisers and plans and drawings for a new marine mammal hospital and sanctuary he is campaigning to have constructed locally.
The battery-operated rabbit perched on one corner of his desk is a gift for a three-year-old friend who shares Hec's love for the natural world - and for a good joke.