Tributes to former Kimbolton teacher who was adored by all who knew him

Di and Geoff Coles on their wedding day.

Di and Geoff Coles on their wedding day. - Credit: Archant

Former Kimbolton teacher Geoff Coles has died, just nine days after his wedding.

Among the many tributes to him, Jonathan Belbin, Kimbolton headmaster, said: “I have never known such a universally loved and respected school master.”

Mr Coles, who died on Friday, aged 84, taught at the school from 1958 to 1994. He was head of geography, housemaster, sports coach and commander of the school’s Combined Cadet Force (CCF), for which he received an OBE in the New Year Honours of 1990.

Mr Coles was newly married to Di Polley, chairman of the Huntingdon Macmillan cancer charity, who had been his partner for 13 years. They met at a Macmillan function in 2001, both having been widowed by cancer almost a decade earlier. Together, they inspired the Huntingdon branch to raise over £300,000.

Mr Coles, who lost his first wife, Mary, to cancer in 1994, and nursed Di through breast cancer, was himself diagnosed with lung cancer in October.

Few people had led a life so full. In Kimbolton, he was the president of the Royal British Legion, church warden of St Andrew’s Church from 1978 to 2001, a leading actor for the Montagu Players, a trombone player in the school’s orchestra and band and, said Mr Belbin, the “fulcrum” of the Old Kimboltonians Association.

He was also a former master of the Old Kimboltonians Masonic Lodge, which he joined in 1965. He was lodge secretary for over 20 years. John Hitchin, the current secretary, said: “Geoff was the warmest, nicest human being that any of us had ever met.”

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Roger Watson, former secretary of Kimbolton RBL, said: “He was a gentleman and all his dealings with pupils were fair. His former pupils had great affection for him. He was an incredible person, a community person. We will miss him greatly.”

Di said: “Our wedding was a superb day. There was such a lovely feeling. He was a marvellous man and a self-effacing man, his pupils all adored him. When we met, I had been widowed nine years and he eight. We had a lovely life together. He was so caring, when I was ill, he came to every appointment and held my hand. I got through that and he was diagnosed. He died very peacefully, in bed with me. He called my name, I woke up and he’d gone.”

Mr Coles was born in Northamptonshire and went to Wellingborough Grammar School and St Peter’s College, Oxford. He moved to Kimbolton in 1953. He leaves daughters, Carolyn, Elizabeth and Fiona and five grandchildren as well as stepchildren, Sarah and Steven and three step-grandchildren.

His funeral will be on Thursday, March 26 at 11.30am at St Andrew’s Church, Kimbolton followed by a reception at Kimbolton Castle.