TRIBUTES have been paid to a vice-admiral who died just days short of his 92nd birthday.
Sir John Lea was born in Simla, India, and was educated at Boxgrove School, Guildford before going to Keyham Naval Engineering College.
He was a wonderful man, a good friend and colleague, and to me a great mentorBill Biggs
He entered service as a submariner, and there followed a successful naval career. He was knighted in 1979.
On retiring from the navy, Sir John and his wife Pat retired to their home in Brights Lane, Hayling Island, where they spent many happy years.
Bill Biggs, the chairman of Hayling Horticultural Society, said: ‘People believed that Sir John and Lady Pat were passionate gardeners but those of us who really knew them were more than aware that their real passion was supporting the England cricket team.
‘They travelled the world watching their team, whether it be in the West Indies, Sri Lanka, India, Australia and so on.
‘Tragedy struck when Lady Pat died unexpectedly.
‘I visited Sir John, he looked at me so crestfallen and said “What am I going to do without my wonderful girl? Who am I going to watch cricket with now?”.
‘He was a wonderful man, a good friend and colleague, and to me a great mentor.
‘If we spoke of horticulture it lasted all of two minutes, and then we were on to cricket.’
Lady Pat died following a stroke in 2010.
As well as founding the horticultural society she also put together the first free newspaper on Hayling Island, The Informer, which was a forerunner to the Hayling Islander.
The couple moved to the island in the early 1950s and were a huge part of the community, raising money for Save the Children, organising the St Mary’s Church fete and opening their garden for National Gardens Scheme.
Sir John, who was a father-of-three and also had great-grandchildren, made headlines two years ago when a cache of 18th century letters were left anonymously in his letter box.
They were letters of instruction from the Office of Ordnance, dating from the period 1730 to 1739.
They were donated to the Museum of the Royal Navy, in Portsmouth.
Sir John was cremated on May 26 at a private, family ceremony. There will be a thanksgiving service on Friday, June 26, at St Mary’s Church, Hayling, at 2pm.
Mr Biggs added: ‘All are welcome, the family would love to see the church full. We can all say farewell to a unique and lovely man. He will be sorely missed.’
n Sir John Lea, born June 4 1923. Died May 19, 2015.