Obituary: Fun-loving Bob Gates really was quite a character!

Bob Bates
Bob Bates

The family of a Leighton Buzzard man who was given a bravery award 50 years ago have paid tribute to him.

Robert Bates (Bob), who passed away on Tuesday, November 14, aged 89, has been described as a funny and loving man by his three children.

Bob grew at Grange Mill, Heath and Reach, helping his father on the farm and watermill with his two sisters, he went to Heath School and then Beaudesert School in Leighton Buzzard.

He was awarded a bravery award by the Royal Humane Society in the early 1960s. His son Alan said: “A local lad fell into the Grand Union Canal and my dad, being a strong swimmer, jumped in to try and save him, he managed to get his body out but sadly he died.”

Bob was married and divorced three times and had his three children with his first wife, but had several stepchildren and step grandchildren with his other two wives.

His children, Pat, Alan and Robert have paid tribute to their father. They said: “He was a very practical man and was always willing to help anyone who needed a lift somewhere or a gardening job doing. He was very well known around Leighton Buzzard and Heath and Reach and loved to have a chat with friends in the Wheatsheaf.

“When he was 18 he was called up to do his two years national service in the Royal Artillery of which he was very proud. It was during his time in the army that he acquired the travel bug and particularly loved Cornwall.

“He also loved to travel and see the countryside and family holidays always consisted of camping somewhere around the British coastline.

“Dad lived at Grange Mill up until it was sold in 1979, he was always very proud of his family’s history and legacy.”

At the age of 82 Bob found himself living alone for the first time in a flat in Leighton Buzzard. He taught himself how to cook and kept himself busy reading, walking and doing jobs.

Alan said: “Dad was a funny bloke and really enjoyed playing pranks on people. He liked talking about the history of the town and often did talks about the history of the town. He was very popular, he could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

“He will be very sadly missed by his 3 children, 5 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.”

Mick King, a friend of Bob’s, said: “Really shocked and saddened by the passing of Bob. We had been friends since I was a lad and swam and fished in the river and sluice pond at the old mill.

“He was quite a character, not averse to a bit of mischief, and one of my favourite anecdotes is of the family he saw having a picnic in one of his fields. Not wanting to spoil their fun, Bob waited until they left and drove home. He followed and a couple of days later had his own little picnic on their lawn!

“I found him to be good-hearted and generous, always ready to do a good turn, lend a helping hand, without thought of reward.

“Whenever me and my brother get to talking about ‘the old times’ you can bet Bob’s name will come up and I’m going to miss him, as I am sure lots of others will - not least his loving family.”

The funeral is on Monday, November 27, at 10.45am at Crownhill Crematorium, in Milton Keynes.

A tribute to a man who was given a bravery award for trying to save a man’s life