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COATES, Mary "Maura" Margaret


mary coates

JUNE 28, 1925 – SEPTEMBER 10, 2022

Maura Coates, green thumb gardener, comfort food provider and champion of the United Kingdom Club of Cambridge for almost half a century, passed away on September 10 at the age of 97.

Born in Buttevant, County Cork, Ireland on June 28, 1925, Maura was the eldest of four children of John and Mary Murphy. A family of British Army anglophiles, the Murphys relocated to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, England in 1933 during “The Troubles.” There, in the bucolic setting of a small semi-tropical island in the English Channel amid summer homes built for Queen Victoria and Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Murphys lived an idyllic, if quiet, life.

In 1939 Maura took the ferry and train to London and volunteered for the British Army. Diminutive and only 14 years old, she, like her father before her, lied about her age and talked her way into uniform. She was first assigned to the Women’s Land Army, where the girls took on the responsibilities of the farmers who were now the King’s soldiers. Maura returned to London and re-upped in the British Army, where she became a plane spotter assigned to Coastal Defences back in Shanklin. On one of her days off, the Murphy house and the Catholic church next door were bombed.

It was in post-war Shanklin that Maura met Norman Coates, and the couple parlayed their love of music and dancing into a lifelong tango that produced four-fifths of a hockey team. In 1954, the family moved to Galt and later Preston, a region with a large contingent of U.K. ex-pats nostalgic for all things British. Maura and Norm became stalwart supporters of the fledgling U.K. Club, running dances, pub nights, dart competitions, raffles and bus trips to other British clubs on the continent. By the time Maura became club secretary, complete with an Underwood typewriter and Gestetner copying machine, the club was well on its way to financing the construction of its own building.

For her efforts in promoting the U.K. community, Maura was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002. She also loved to work the soil four to six hours a day six months of the year in her English perennial garden, producing a riot of colour as counterweight to the grey of winter. Her gardens were her joy, and she kept them until, at the age of 91, it was time to turn the plot over to someone else. While in their 70s, Maura and Norm staged their own version of The Last Waltz with a six-week tour of England’s seaside ballrooms and dancehalls in their quest to find the best dance floor in England.

As they suspected, Blackpool won. Maura was predeceased by her parents John and Mary Murphy, her sisters Nelly Mae and Peggy, her brother John, her husband Norman, daughters-in-law Lynda and Janet, and grandson Mark. She is survived by sons Al, Dave (Jane), Barry and Marty, grandchildren Chris (Melissa) and Amanda, and numerous relatives in England. The funeral service and interment have taken place.

The family would like to thank the staff at St. Luke’s Place, Hespeler, for their kindness and compassion these past six years, and suggests that charitable donations be made to St. Luke’s, which is a non-profit long term care facility deserving of our support. Thank you also to the Veterans Association of Canada, which went to extraordinary measures to ensure Maura’s comfort in her later years.

Arrangements entrusted to Barthel Funeral Home