MOURNERS packed a church to say farewell to a man who inspired hundreds of young people in Gosport.
Former colleagues, family and grown up cadets from a band he founded were at St Mary’s Church in Alverstoke yesterday for Reg Coates’ funeral service.
The 88-year-old former Royal Marine founded the Royal Marines Light Infantry Cadet Marching Band in 1979. His coffin was draped in the Union flag with his cap on top.
And fittingly a former cadet played the Last Post and Reveille at the end of the moving service as people stood tall to attention.
Sergeant Bugler Russell Piner, 36, joined the cadet band in 1987 before leaving in 1997 to take up a job in the Royal Marines Band Service.
He said: ‘Without Reg starting up the cadet unit I probably wouldn’t have got to where I am today.
‘All the friends I made through the cadets – there are loads of people here going back years and years.
‘It’s a big network through Reg. He was really important to a lot of people.
‘He was an inspirational person. He was always doing something for the community.’
As reported in The News Mr Coates, of Home Park, Stokes Bay, raised £500,000 for charity with his wife Molly, who died in 2007.
He founded and ran Coates Auction Rooms in 1973, which stood in South Loading Road before it was named Coates Road in 2002.
The congregation was invited to celebrate his life instead of mourning.
His son Wayne Gillis-Coates, 48, said: ‘My best memory is not really mine. It’s the opportunities and the potential that he created in hundreds of children in the Royal Marines Light Infantry Cadet Marching Band.’
He said the cadet band was Mr Coates’ legacy.
Eric Gibbs, 73, of Bridgemary, Gosport, worked with Mr Coates on the Provincial bus routes in Gosport.
He fondly remembers Mr Coates calling him ‘Nipper’.
Mr Gibbs said: ‘He’d help anybody, he was a character.
‘I saw him not so long ago and he came up to me and called me nipper.
‘He would never got past, he would always say hello. There won’t be another one like him in Gosport.’
He is survived by children Jan Randall, 61, Ray Campbell, Marilyn Young, 66, Malcolm Martin, 59, Wayne Gillis-Coates, 48, and Michelle Colbourne, 61, along with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.