The recent death of Don Belgre at the age of 80 has left a void in the world of the wool industry in Australia and overseas.
G Schneider Australia Pty Ltd managing director Tim Marwedel said Mr Belgre's unwavering dedication to promoting the finest wool globally, coupled with his profound expertise, has left an indelible mark on the fabric of the wool industry.
Mr Marwedel said Mr Belgre was his former boss and colleague, but he had also lost a lifelong friend and mentor.
He said Mr Belgre's journey in the wool industry commenced at Lempriere, where he laid the groundwork for a remarkable career.
However, it was in the mid-1990s, when Mr Belgre became the managing director at G Schneider Australia, that he truly cemented his legacy as a leading figure in the wool sector.
His extensive network and deep understanding of the industry made him a trusted collaborator for sourcing wool among influential Italian entrepreneurs.
Reflecting on Mr Belgre's impact, his Italian friend Marco Schneider said as well as being a good friend, he was a very important person in his life.
"I met Don at a very particular moment in my working life, when I found myself leading, alone, the company that bears my name; the trust he immediately inspired in me, combined with his great competence in his work, were a decisive and extremely precious contribution for me," Mr Schneider said.
"Don had the great ability to combine his great skills as a profound expert of the wool industry with an extraordinary passion for his work, a passion that led him to become a milestone in the world of fine wools, a leader internationally recognised and deeply respected for his profound knowledge, his perseverance, his education and his politeness.
"Thanks to these qualities, Don has managed to earn the trust not only of the most important entrepreneurs in the wool industry around the world but also of the most esteemed and recognised Australian fine wool producers; his contribution to the diffusion of fine wools throughout the world was unique and decisive."
Mr Schneider said the entire fine wool industry owed Mr Belgre a great debt of gratitude.
"It would take much more time and space to dedicate to him everything he deserved but Don was a man of few words and also for this reason I have always admired and respected him," he said.
"For me, I thank him for everything he has given me during my working life but above all for the friendship he has never failed to show me, in every moment of his life."
Another friend from Italy, Pigi Loro Piana, described Mr Belgre as a loyal friend and somebody he trusted.
"He taught me a lot about the magic wool world and together we supported the wool recognition at the highest reputation level," Mr Loro Piana said.
"The industry is missing him as I am doing now. I will not forget Don."
Ermenegildo Zegna board member Paolo Zegna, in his heartfelt tribute, remembered Mr Belgre for his depth of knowledge in the world of wool and the close relationships he fostered with wool growers.
"What to say of Don? Should we remind him for his deep knowledge of the world of wool, in Australia but not only in Australia? Should we enhance his very close relationship with all the wool growers he was in touch with? Should I remember him for his wise advice about where to look for the wool property Zegna purchased in the New England and how to objectively set the goals for such a new enterprise for our Company?" Mr Zegna reminisced.
"All of the above but, above all, I'd like to remember him for the way we handled together, in so many years of collaboration, all matters coming to our tables.
"Sometimes we may have found ourselves in contrast, but we always found, very calmly and deeply, the way to solve all matters and problems."
Mr Zegna remembered Mr Belgre as "firm, knowledgeable, a deep thinker: always with his positivity, respect, and politeness".
"Ready to speak out: always available to carefully listen," he said.
Collectively, these reflections paint a picture of a man deeply admired for his wisdom, positivity and commitment.
Mr Belgre's legacy extends beyond his professional achievements; it resides in the cherished memories and enduring friendships he cultivated within the wool industry.
His death leaves a void in the hearts of those fortunate to have known and worked with him.
His memory will forever endure within the fabric of the Italian and Australian wool industry and in the hearts of those privileged enough to have crossed paths with him.