FOR SANTO Cacopardo, the future beckoned like an endless summer a new fiancee, a loving family and a job he relished.
It was his first day back at work after two months touring around Australia and the 57-year-old was positively glowing.
He had just proposed to his fiancee, and his workmates on the bottling line at Casella Wines said he was as "relaxed and happy" as they'd ever seen him.
But just hours into that first shift back on Monday, Mr Cacopardo collapsed and died in an accident that has left his loved ones and colleagues devastated and searching for answers.
Mr Cacopardo is being remembered as a hard-working family man with a fiery streak, a man diminutive in stature but with a "heart the size of Gibraltar".
"He could be fairly volatile at times but beneath it all he was as gentle as a lamb," his fiancee Rhonda Cooper said.
"He was very loyal, very affectionate and one of those men that would tell you how gorgeous you were every day.
"He would go through anything for his family and he had a wicked sense of humour.
"He absolutely loved his job and he was proud to work for Casella Wines - he promoted them everywhere we went."
Ms Cooper said after a marriage breakdown and a bout with depression, Mr Cacopardo had emerged into a golden period of his life.
"He was as healthy and happy as he'd ever been," she said.
She thanked his extended family at Casella's for their attempts to revive Mr Cacopardo just moments after he collapsed.
Born in Italy, Mr Cacopardo emigrated to Australia as a young man and fell in love with Griffith after a stint fruit-picking in the district.
He raised a family here with wife Lee - sons Anthony (dec), Cori and Daniel and daughter Jodi - and proudly boasted two grandchildren, Jacinta and Amilia Rose.
While his family was his life's work, Mr Cacopardo also held a deep passion for motorcycles, and was a member of the Griffith Classic Motorcycle Club.
Mr Cacopardo's friend and Casella colleague Marianne Taylor said his professionalism and devotion to his job made him a "very special man".
"Some people thought he was a grouch but he was just very good at his job and very hard-working," she said.
"He was so relaxed and happy on Monday, more than I'd ever seen him, and he was talking about his holidays and just glowing. It was amazing to see him like that.
"The whole thing is just such a shock and everyone is devastated.
"People spoke to him minutes before he died and they said he seemed fine."
A report into his death is being prepared for the coroner.