A hunter gatherer who would go out of his way to help others died just days before his 82nd birthday.

Leslie Mildon, known as Les, was driving from Napier to Wairoa on Saturday to go whitebaiting when his car left the road, went down a gully and landed on a railway line.

After climbing up the bank and waving down a passing motorist Les Mildon later died in Hawke's Bay Hospital.

His son, Russell Mildon, said it would have been his father's 82nd birthday yesterday and it was rather poetic that his car came to rest on a railway line, as he would often go whitebaiting along the Wairoa River near Railway Bridge.

"He was an outdoors man who loved whitebaiting and wouldn't miss opening day for the world."

Just four months ago he broke his leg on a farm but that didn't stop him from prepping for the season opener and after just a few physio sessions was out setting up nets.

"We were shocked but he loves it so much. He even used to get annoyed that his birthday fell during the season as he would rather be out in the river than celebrating at home."

Les Mildon also loved hunting and only eight months ago was out in the bush and shot a deer.

The family said he was a man larger than life and despite being in his 80s nothing was too much for him.

Les Mildon was from a large family in Wairoa and moved to Napier when he was 16. He met and married Jenny and they had four children together.

"I can remember the days where we would pack up and go picnicking out at Kairakau Beach, Rissington and Dartmoor River with other families and finish with Sunday drinks, we had a lot of fun."

When the grandchildren and great grandchildren came along his son said that his passion for family was continued and he was dedicated to spending time with them between his hunting and whitebaiting.

"He was a man who had a lot of respect for his family and was very loyal and protective. He would take the grandkids whitebaiting but individually so he could spend quality time with them one on one."

Les Mildon was a well-known Napier butcher and had a passion for teaching others and after retiring from Downey's City Butchery in Napier he continued to volunteer there.

Rob Downey described him as a "top old fashioned bloke" who would go out of his way to help teach the apprentices traditional butchering.

"He was a proper old school butcher who was quick to offer skills and show the young guys how to do it properly."

Mr Downey said he was a man of his word and was a reliable, genuine and clean cutter of meat.

"There is not a bad thing you could say about the bloke."

The family are mindful that people want to celebrate Les Mildon's life and after a private family cremation will invite people to celebrate his life and will advise this week.