ALEX Flint was a hero in life and in death.
From modest beginnings, he had worked hard to build a good life for himself and his partner Jessie Lee, and their daughters, Amelie and Stella.
And in his last moments, he gave his all for them.
As he struggled to stay afloat in treacherous surf off Marcoola Beach last Tuesday afternoon, he never lost his grip on the two girls, aged 7 and 4.
He kept them afloat until his last breath, just long enough for rescuers to help them and Jessie to shore.
Jessie yesterday remembered her partner of 10 years as a man of incredible devotion.
"When we had a family, he completely dedicated himself to me and the girls.
"Most of the past became the past and we moved on with the future and what we were growing together."
Jessie said Alex, who had grown up in a commune in northern New South Wales and left home at 14, had wanted to provide the stable family life for his children that he felt he never had.
The couple, who met in Armidale, had moved to Coolum in January with plans to save and buy a home.
A welder by trade, Alex sacrificed time with his children and some environmental principles to take on FIFO work to better provide for his family.
"That was what he sacrificed for us and he just kept making sacrifices for us right up to the end," Jessie said.
Alex, 34, had been due to fly out to Roma on the weekend but had taken extra time off for his daughter Emily's 8th birthday on Wednesday.
He and Jessie, 32, had taken the girls to the beach on Tuesday afternoon without intending to go in the water but made a spur of the moment decision to cool off.
Jessie said he was standing with the girls in knee-deep water, "and the next minute, it was up to his waist."
"I could see they were starting to get sucked out."
Realising her husband needed help to get the girls in, Jessie swam out.
"I screamed at him to hold on to them. We kept getting dumped and he kept holding on to them.
"I thought we were all going to die and finally, someone came walking up the beach and he could see we were in trouble."
Jessie has gaps in her memory but remembers a stranger helping Amelie in, a woman telling her how to swim, and a man helping her in, telling her to "kick like a frog".
"All this time I knew Alex was dead because I kept seeing his body coming up in the water but I didn't know what happened to Stella."
Stella was safe on shore with Amelie by the time Jessie was brought in.
"I'm still in a bit of disbelief that both my daughters are alive," she said.
"If Alex had let go of them, they both would have perished."
Jessie is now at a loss without the man who shared all of her dreams.
"I don't know how I'm going to get by without his guidance. I looked to him for everything."
She described Alex as loyal, generous, intelligent, and protective, with a natural interest in people, history, and the world around him.
"He was a beautiful person," she said.
"I can't begin to explain how sad we are."
The day after her father's death, a brave Amelie demanded no tears on her birthday.
Jessie and her family have told the girls to remember "he was your hero".
A family friend has begun fundraising to help the family cope with expenses while they work through their grief.
To donate the family, visit this website.