A SMALL town near Stanthorpe is in mourning after two loving dads were killed in a car crash just two days before Father's Day.
Thulimbah residents Jeffrey Croft, 44, and Mark Ciufici, 57, had just left a friend's house when they crashed into a light pole on the New England Hwy at The Summit on Friday night.
Mr Croft had five children and three grandkids and was known in his tight-knit town for his love of cars.
He worked at a sawmill by day but spent his free time pursuing his other passion as a backyard mechanic.
He had planned to marry his partner of 26 years, Leanne, later this month.
"Jeffrey would help anyone. He used to do jobs for free, help out people who were broken down on the highway," she said.
"He could always find a way to fix something."
Country music legend Hank Williams was an ever-present staple on Mr Croft's CD player, and his family knew him as someone who would always go out of his way to help his mates.
While he rarely attended church, Leanne said Mr Croft had recently begun studying the Bible and "had a strong faith in the lord".
Mr Croft and Mr Ciufici became good friends through their shared love of cars, the latter often riding in the passenger seat when Mr Croft went for drives.
"Mark hated it when Jeffrey would drive on his own. He always wanted to keep him company," Leanne said.
"On that day, Mark came over and I was going to make him a cuppa.
"But Jeff had just put new LED lights on his car and wanted to show them off to his workmate, who lived about 5km away on the highway.
"I told Mark I would make him a cuppa when they came back."
The reunion never eventuated after the car crashed into the power pole about a kilometre from the friend's house.
Mr Ciufici leaves behind six children, six grandkids and his wife of 25 years.
He was originally from Wollongong but had moved to Thulimbah after his retirement.
His disabled mother, Val Ciufici, last saw her son on the afternoon of his death.
"My son has been looking after me for the last seven years, taking me shopping, chopping wood and taking me to doctor's appointments," she said.
"He had been racing pigeons since he was four years old and won many trophies, ribbons and long-distance flying competitions.
"When we moved up here, he had to give it up because there was no pigeon club.
"But that was his biggest passion.
"I will sadly miss him. On the day he was killed, he was here having lunch with me until 3pm."
Mr Ciufici's wife, Sharon, said his death left a rift among her family and friends.
"He was a very quiet man, very caring and very loving," she said.
"I met him 25 years ago and we've been together ever since. He was always a good husband."
Police investigators do not believe the stretch road is to blame for the two men's deaths.
The deaths bring the road toll on the New England Hwy between Warwick and Wallangarra to seven this year.
"Drivers need to take care on the roads," Accident investigator Senior Constable Scott Armbruster said.
"Even if you've lived here a long time and know the roads you can't be complacent."
A memorial gathering for Mark Ciufici will be held at the public hall at The Summit from 11am on Friday.
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