Tributes pour in after beloved ‘Big Softy’ ice cream man Michael Trowbridge passes away in Geraldton

Reuben CarderGeraldton Guardian
Michael Trowbridge, also known as Big Softy.
Camera IconMichael Trowbridge, also known as Big Softy. Credit: The Geraldton Guardian, Adam Poulsen

Friends of Michael Trowbridge, who operated Geraldton’s Big Softy ice cream vans and a deli in Rangeway, have paid tribute to the beloved local figure after he passed away on Wednesday.

Emergency services confirmed Mr Trowbridge died following a traffic incident.

They have not released the cause or time of death or other personal details.

Michael Lambert, a local musician and antique dealer who described himself as a close friend, said Mr Trowbridge had “the biggest heart” and Geraldton was his favourite place in the world.

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“I’m one of the lucky ones,” Mr Lambert said.

“I’ve got memories of him that will never fade.

“He’s larger than life, he’s Big Softy.”

The Big Softy van.
Camera IconThe Big Softy van. Credit: Supplied

He said Mr Trowbridge was a charitable person, buying bottles of water for people queuing for JobSeeker applications in the heat at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and giving bicycles to police to use in community projects.

He said Mr Trowbridge would often give groups of children an ice cream each even if they did not have enough money.

Mr Trowbridge’s business partner, Mark Hutchins, said he had passed away while doing what he loved, wearing his Hawaiian shirt in the ice cream truck.

“He was just a kind, generous man with the biggest heart possible,” Mr Hutchins said.

“If he had chosen a way to go, that would have been it.”

Mr Hutchins, a fly-in fly-out worker, said he had always dreamed of working in an ice cream truck and started working with Mr Trowbridge as a hobby.

He said Mr Trowbridge had sold him and his wife, Maria, the ice cream business because he to concentrate on the Rangeway deli, but continued to do casual work in the ice cream truck.

He said he would keep the Big Softy image on the truck.

“We’ll keep his name going,” he said.

A St John’s Ambulance spokesperson confirmed a man in his 50s who had suffered a medical incident was taken to Geraldton Health Campus emergency department in critical condition following a crash on Place Road in Webberton. Mr Trowbridge is thought to have been driving at the time.

The spokersperson said the ambulance service received a call to attend the scene at 5:42pm and gave the man treatment at the scene before arriving at the hospital at 6.10pm.

Police were at the scene. Further details have not been released.

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