Mexican Mick Cambray dies, aged 83
IF you grew up in the Northern Rivers in the 1970s or 80s chances are you spent at least one birthday at Byron Bay being serenaded by a jolly man in a sombrero hat carrying a cake with a dazzling array of sparklers.
That was Mick Cambray, or Mexican Mick as everyone knew him, the owner of the colourful Jonson St restaurant of the same name; an establishment where many locals hold cherished memories of marking the special occasions of their lives.
In fact, for many locals Mexican Mick's - which he opened in 1969 with his then wife Brenny on the site now occupied by Cheeky Monkey's nightclub - was their first restaurant experience.
But with Mick's death at 83 years of age on Saturday, another piece of Byron Bay history has passed.
Mick, who was born in the UK in 1929, passed away peacefully at Burleigh Waters surrounded by his family after a lengthy illness.
Daughter Cindy Cambray, one of Mick's six children, said her siblings would carry fond memories of a dad who was "wickedly funny with a twinkle in his eye", who gave great bear hugs, was open-minded and who showed them the world.
"We've had lots of laughter (since his passing), and obviously a lot of tears, but lots of laughter," Cindy said.
"He died with a smile on his face."
But behind the happy, life-of-the-party facade was a deep thinker, said friend of 40 years John Wright, the founder of Byron Shire News in which Mick was the first advertiser.
He wasn't a superficial person at all. He thought deeply about things, about life and why we're here, John said.
He cared deeply for the Byron community.
"Mick gave as much to the community as he took out of it. I'm not making him a saint that he's gone, that's just the way it was," John said.
After the restaurant closed in 1983, Mick pursued his interest in natural health.
But in 1998 he published a book Under The Mexican Sun which contained an entertaining history of the restaurant as well as 101 of his "magnifico" Mexican recipes.
The family will hold a private cremation with a public celebration to be announced in the new year.