His police cap sat atop his hearse for most of the service, replaced only by the Australian flag draped in a poignant moment as his pallbearers accompanied him from the cathedral.
Outside, former colleagues and other police formed a guard of honour.
The late Bill Hughes was never one for fuss, as his funeral Mass heard on Monday, but the gestures would have touched him.
A large congregation crowded into Sts Peter and Paul’s Cathedral to farewell the popular Goulburn Detective Senior Constable who died following complications from cancer on March 11. Southern Region Commander, Assistant Commissioner Gary Worboys was among mourners paying tribute to a man commonly described as “a great bloke.”
There were golfing mates, former hockey and soccer players and even rally drivers, representing the many community organisations in which he was involved.
Son Mark told the congregation his father had passed up many career promotions because he simply wanted to stay in Goulburn, where he was born, and to raise his family with wife, Cheryl.
He had met Cheryl as a teenager and they married in 1971.
“They were the best example of a successful marriage, remaining strong for 46 years,” Mark said.
“As one of his sisters said recently, when it came to the marriage lottery, Dad won the jackpot. But Mum always said it was her who won the jackpot.”
Mr Hughes completed an apprenticeship as a diesel fitter on the railway before deciding after seven years to join the Police Force in 1974. It fulfilled a dream and following training at Redfern he was transferred to Campsie, then Mount Druitt and Young. After three and a half years and detective training, he jumped at the chance to come back to Goulburn in 1982. There he remained until retirement in 2005.
Mark said despite his father’s intense work, he always put family first and especially supported his and brother Rob’s sporting endeavours. Invariably, Mr Hughes was on the sidelines supporting, managing or coaching, “fully involving himself but never taking over,” his son said.
Later, he pursued his golfing passion and became club captain at Goulburn Golf Club where he made numerous improvements and loved having a beer with his mates.
“Though he didn’t always show his emotions he was always there and we knew he was almost always proud of us,” Mark said.
“Dad was my hero and as I grew older I strove to follow the example he set, from his devotion to wife and family to his work ethic...He was never pushy, simply there, patiently waiting to be asked for his help and to be included.”
Mark read a tribute from longtime friend and work colleague of his father’s, Harley Willox, who was unable to attend the service due to flooding in the State’s north.
In his words of remembrance, Assistant Commissioner Worboys said Mr Hughes was never one to skite about his work, despite working on many serious investigations over the years.
As a detective, he worked on crime scene investigation, gathering forensic evidence but was also involved in emergency management. He won the National Police Medal in 1990, its first clasp in 2000, the NSW Police Medal in 2003 and subsequently, its four clasps.
Assistant Commissioner Worboys related an instance where Detective Hughes and colleague Geoff Regent were threatened by a knife-wielding man while trying to arrest him on warrants.
“There could have easily been a retreat and a handover to someone else but Bill stayed on and did as best he could as a negotiator with his life being threatened,” he said.
“...Bill would always carry out his duties as best he could and in a calm and professional way. Afterwards he would say it was just another job and in no way was he extraordinary or brave. That’s the man Bill Hughes was.”