John Bartlett.

Proud father: John Bartlett.

John Bartlett was the glue that held his tight-knit family together; a proud father who spent the last hours of his life cheering on his soccer-playing son Aaron in the Special Olympics.

Mr Bartlett's wife Lesley met her husband at 1pm on Friday – a date that neither realised at the time was their 44th wedding anniversary – at Newcastle Sports Ground No.2 to watch Aaron represent his country, score a goal against India, and be part of the winning team.

''John was thrilled on Friday,'' Mrs Bartlett said.

''He got to give Aaron a hug and congratulate him and told him how proud he was – and I'm so thankful now that we had that opportunity.''

The couple went their separate ways at 3pm – Mr Bartlett on his motorbike home and Mrs Bartlett to visit her brother who was recovering from surgery at John Hunter Hospital.

She was still there when she heard an approaching ambulance, which she now realises was likely to have been carrying her husband.

Emergency service crews were called to Molly Morgan Drive in East Maitland after reports a motorcycle and sedan had collided.

The 79-year-old female sedan driver from Seaham was taken to Maitland Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.

Mr Bartlett, 65, was treated at the scene and taken to John Hunter Hospital, where he died a short time later.

His wife learnt of her husband's accident only after returning to their Bolwarra Heights home.

''I just can't believe they were trying to ring me for me to go to the hospital and I was already there and didn't know,'' she said.

''I was there for an hour-and-a-half with him and didn't know he was lying in emergency.

''It was a terrible shock; it still hasn't sunk in yet and it doesn't seem real.

''I'm so grateful for all the support, particularly from principal Michael Blake at St Peters [campus of All Saints College] in Maitland; it's all been quite overwhelming.''

Mrs Bartlett and her three children - David, Amanda and Aaron - yesterday remembered Mr Bartlett as a larger-than-life, determined, straight-talking family man who was empathetic, passionate about his beliefs and had a strong work ethic.

Raised in East Maitland, Mr Bartlett had been a TAFE teacher in carpentry and joinery but for the past three years had worked as a production assistant at disability services provider The Mai-Wel Group's E-Cycling Services in East Maitland.

Raised an Anglican, Mr Bartlett converted to Catholicism in the past decade and had a deep faith.

But his family was his pride.

Amanda joked her father always had words of wisdom and advice to share; regardless of whether or not he was asked for them.

''He made me the woman I am today, he taught me to stand up for myself, have my say, not to back down, to stand up for what I believe in, to have a voice,'' she said.

''You'd pick up the phone and you'd be worried about telling him something and his reaction was never as bad as you thought. He used to always say, 'You can always come and talk to me, it may be hard to begin with, but we'll work it out.'

''He only wanted his family and his kids to be happy. Anything you wanted done, he'd do it for you.''

Mr Bartlett was heavily involved in Aaron's 17 years of participation with Special Olympics, acting as a team manager, bus driver and supporter.

The family usually spent December looking forward to their annual break at Scotts Head, where Mr Bartlett always relished spending time with his granddaughters Sophia, 13, and Krystal, 9.

Mrs Bartlett said her husband had a motorcycle when their children were growing up but only rekindled his passion for riding about two years ago.

''I used to say to him that I hated the motorbike and told him to be careful, but he would say, 'If riding my bike is the way I had to go, I'd be happy,' '' she said.

''He just about did everything he ever wanted to do – I don't think he'd have any regrets in his life.''

Police are conducting inquiries into the collision and a brief will be prepared for the coroner.

The Newcastle Herald