Swimming legend Neate was ‘a hero to everyone’

FAMILY MAN: Don Neate and wife Pat with granddaughter Georgia Farrow, who they took in after Don's daughter Julia died in 2010
FAMILY MAN: Don Neate and wife Pat with granddaughter Georgia Farrow, who they took in after Don's daughter Julia died in 2010
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The son of former ASA 
president Don Neate said he has realised his father was ‘a hero to everyone’ since his death last month.

Don — who was involved in swimming in Bury St Edmunds from 1975 until he emigrated Down Under to be with son Richard in 2012 — died at his New Zealand home on January 28 at the age of 78 after suffering a heart attack.

Having got into swimming when he was handed a stopwatch at son Richard’s first competitive gala, Don went on to scale the heights of the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) in 2010/11, becoming the first president of the national body to hail from Suffolk.

“What has really surprised me and mum is just the number of people who have talked very powerfully about the impact he had and what a great bloke he was,” said Richard.

“You think your own dad is a hero, but I’ve realised he was a hero to everyone else as well.”

West Suffolk Swimming Club have announced a memorial plaque will be placed poolside at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre and this year’s annual West Suffolk Open Meet will be renamed as the Neate Meet in Don’s honour.

Don — who was born in Croydon on July 16, 1935 — married Patricia in July 1958 and had two children before moving to Bury St Edmunds in 1973.

He accompanied Richard — then nine — to his son’s first competitive gala at Woodbridge in 1975 and, because he had used a stopwatch before, was appointed timekeeper for the evening.

From then, Don’s involvement with Bury St Edmunds Swimming Club increased and he served as record and fixture officer, while Pat became club secretary and, later, club chairman.

Don was also involved in joining the swimming clubs of Bury and Haverhill together to become the successful West Suffolk Swimming Club of today.

He became involved in county administration — taking over as secretary of Suffolk from his wife in 1989 and going on to hold the position until 2009.

Both have been elected president of the county twice.

Don also started officiating and was appointed just the second referee in Suffolk in 1992.

Don was elected chairman of the ASA east region shadow management board to help the ASA become regionalised in 2005 and was elected regional president in 2006.

He was swimming manager for the region and, with a small but expert team, ran the region’s championships for five years, as well as holding a number of other positions before being elected as president of the ASA for 2010/11.

Away from the pool, Don’s first job was as an apprentice glass blower.

He went on to become an electrical engineer and moved into product development of aerosol valves and fire extinguishers.

When Don’s daughter Julia — who was adopted by him and Pat in 1970 — died from cancer in 2010, they took over the care of their granddaughter Georgia Farrow and decided to emigrate to New Zealand in 2012 so they could be near their son Richard in Auckland.

Reflecting on their two years together Down Under, Richard said: “We’ve been able to do those father-and-son things like go for a drink — it was good for both of us.”

n Email your memories of Don to derek.bish@jpress.co.uk