DESPITE the controversy surrounding former Clarence MP Steve Cansdell's sudden departure from politics in September 2011, guests have described Saturday's fundraising dinner honouring the MP as a moving and appropriate acknowledgement for a man who has contributed a great deal to his community and electorate during his role in both state and local politics over many years.
The evening was well attended by a broad section of people, with guests including local identities, community groups, business people and representatives from local politics, including Mayor Richie Williamson and councillor Karen Toms.
Incumbent Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis was among a strong representation from the NSW National Party.
State director of the NSW National Party Ben Franklin was master of ceremonies and later described the event as "an appropriate tribute to a man who has been committed to his community for over eight years as a state MP and more than 12 years as a councillor".
"I think people were saddened by the way he left.
"It was a silly mistake and Mr Cansdell paid a heavy price," Mr Franklin said.
"But it doesn't take away from the years of service he made to his community."
Mr Franklin said he had been "incredibly moved" by many of the speeches made, especially those by people who had been personally impacted by Mr Cansdell's efforts.
"It was quite clear to me, when I entered the room, that this was very much a community event," he said.
"It's obvious that Mr Cansdell has made an impact to people's lives, both at a personal and broader level. People were there to show appreciation of his contributions."
Guests described the event as a very entertaining night and an overwhelming response from the community.
The evening included an auction to raise money for the Riverside Chapel.
Outside the event, Ursula Tunks maintained her promise to protest the function.
Despite being the only protester there, Ms Tunks believes she has made her point.
"I don't have a problem with the dinner itself, but they don't have to publicise it," said Ms Tunks.
"It's hypocritical," she said.
"Someone has to stand up for the people."