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The day a big heart stopped: he was trying, as always, to help others

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Stephanie Gardiner

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A Good Man

How far would you go to support your family? Struggling NSW farmer Chris Rohrlach desperately needed a second income after his partner suffered a massive stroke during a drought. To make ends meet and to the horror of many townspeople, Chris opened a legal brothel.

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Chris Rohrlach died doing what he'd devoted his life to - helping people.

The 43-year-old, who was the focus of the documentary A Good Man, suffered a heart attack while helping his neighbour muster cattle on a Bundarra property, in the state's north, two weeks ago.

It was a case of 'you've got to do what you've got to do' and that's what he decided he'd do. Chris devoted his life to Rachel, he never slept a whole night in his life. He really was remarkable man 

Well-known in the community of 300, Mr Rohrlach was introduced to the rest of Australia through the 2009 documentary about him opening Inverell's first legal brothel to survive a devastating drought.

Big-hearted Chris with the love of his life, his wife Rachel.

Big-hearted Chris with the love of his life, his wife Rachel.

Mr Rohrlach was caring for Rachel, his wife of 14 years who was left a quadriplegic after a massive stroke she suffered the day after they announced they were engaged and she was pregnant.

The Bundarra and Inverell communities were devastated by his sudden death and are now trying to raise funds to help care for Rachel and buy her a fully-equipped van.

The documentary maker Safina Uberoi paid tribute to the "big, ginger-haired, bear of a man".

Chris Rohrlach pictured in September 2009 with sons Kieron and Liam, wife Rachel and the  director  of A Good Man,  Safina Uberoi (back).

Chris Rohrlach pictured in September 2009 with sons Kieron and Liam, wife Rachel and the director of A Good Man, Safina Uberoi (back).

"Everything about him was big - big hands and feet, big appetite (for both food and drink), a big laugh, big broad shoulders," Ms Uberoi wrote on Facebook.

"He was the kind of man you called when your combine harvester broke down.

"And when you called him, he would always come. Because above all, Chris had a big heart. That this heart, this huge, loving, generous heart just stopped, seems so … wrong."

Like many others around town, Mr Rohrlach's close friend Coral Pearce and her husband Ray met him when he helped them with farm work.

He was the type of man who would drop everything to help someone else in need, whether it was fixing a roof or cooking for friends, Mrs Pearce said.

"He always had a big smile on his face.

"His whole heart and house were open to anyone and everyone."

Mr Rohrlach had been studying to become a lawyer when Rachel had the stroke, but spent his life looking after her and their sons Keiron, 21, and Liam, six.

"He gave it all up to look after Rachel and his boys and he never regretted one day of that.

"I never heard him complain about that.

"They were an amazing team.

"The last time I saw Chris he sat on his verandah and he had this wonderful expression on his face while he was watching Liam learning to fly a stunt kite with Ray.

"It's just a face of pure happiness and joy. He loved his boys."

With a big bushy beard and a kind smile, he was also a typical country town larrikin.

"He used to wear an orange shirt.

"Every time you saw him he had an orange shirt on, the same orange shirt.

"In the end, one of his mates ripped it off him and burned it."

Opening the brothel was one thing Mr Rohrlach did regret, Mrs Pearce said.

Mr Rohrlach and his best friend Danny Poulsen gave up running the controversial business after six months.

"He did it because there was a drought. He had a wife who couldn't work and two kids.

"It was a case of 'you've got to do what you've got to do' and that's what he decided he'd do.

"Chris devoted his life to Rachel, he never slept a whole night in his life.

"He really was remarkable man."

- Readers can contact filmmaker Safina Uberoi for information on how to donate to the Rohrlach family

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