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Tributes to popular Ilminster fire chief John Coles
3:00pm Wednesday 18th June 2014 in News
THE family of a well-known former Ilminster fire chief have paid tribute to him after his funeral.
William Jonathan (John) Coles, 84, attended North Street infants, Ditton Street junior boys and the Grammar School before joining his grandfather’s company, Minsterstone, where he served an apprenticeship as a stonemason.
He met his wife, Estelle, aged 21 and was married just as he started his National Service as a Training NCO with the Royal Engineers.
The couple were happily married for 62 years and spent most of their married life at Long Close and then Ladymead from 2001. They had three daughters, Carolyn and twins Alison and the late Angela, and John was also proud of his three grandchildren, Abbie, Callum and Aidan.
John worked at Minsterstone until 1969 and then moved to SWEB in Crewkerne as a cartographic draughtsman and to Southern Electric in Yeovil until retiring in 1992.
He became a retained fireman in 1962 and served for nearly 24 years. And as the Somerset representative on the Fire Brigades’ Union, he worked hard to recruit retained firefighters in the county.
He helped set up the Retained Firefighters’ Union, later becoming Somerset president.
He became station officer at Ilminster in 1974 and retired in 1987 when he was awarded the Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation and made a life member of the RFU.
He was a former president of the Old Ilminsterians and a member of Ilminster Lions for many years, serving as club president, secretary and zone chairman.
In his younger days he played football for Ilminster, Dowlish Wake, Barrington and Seavington Utd, and skittled for the George Hotel.
He was passionate about local history and wrote articles and booklets including a history of Ilminster Fire Brigade, as well as a book on his own life story for his grandchildren, including details of life in Ilminster during much of the 20th Century.
There was not much about Ilminster, its buildings and surroundings he could not tell others about and, as a talented artist, he drew sketches of how landmarks looked in days gone by.
The funeral service at Taunton Crematorium was followed by interment of ashes in the family grave at Ilminster cemetery.
Donations were divided between the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund and Ilminster Lions.
The family would like to thank everyone who attended the funeral and joined them at the Shrubbery Hotel afterwards, and staff of Fielding Ward at Musgrove Park Hospital.
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