Tom Coker, for many years a partner of Herbert & Gowers and then of Herbert Mallam Gowers, died unexpectedly in France at New Year. He was 68 years old and has left behind his wife, Sue, and their four children.
After school, Tom started his articles (as they then were) at Herbert & Gowers in 1967. He qualified in 1972. He became a partner in the firm in 1978 and continued as such until 1999.
From September 1970 Tom was based at the newly opened Bicester office of the firm. He took charge on qualification and became the indispensable source of sound business and property advice to his very many loyal clients throughout Bicester and the surrounding area.
Tom and Sue were thoroughly involved in the Bicester business and sporting communities. Tom played rugger for Bicester and cricket for Middleton Stoney. He swam with Bicester Blue Fins. When he could no longer play rugby he spent many years coaching the junior teams. He not only played the sports but he dedicated much of his time at committee level to help the success of the various Bicester teams. He was committee member of both Bicester RFC and Oxfordshire RFC and a committee member of Bicester Sports Association.
He became President of Bicester and District Angling Alliance and a member of the Legal and Constitutional Committee of the National Federation of Anglers. He amazed many by the seemingly impossible distance he was capable of casting a fly; and amazed many more by the way fish seemed to be drawn irresistibly to the self-same fly.
He was a governor of Bardwell Special School and Trustee of Launton Playgroup. He also served as a governor at Launton Primary School.
Tom was a past president of Bicester Rotary Club.
Motivated by concern over a thankfully brief period of ill health, Tom and Sue decided that they needed a complete change of direction. It was then that they bought a chalet in the French Alps at Chatel. Tom resigned his partnership and the family moved in to the hospitality business, providing skiing holidays for families and individuals. After a few years (and many miles of skiing) Tom and Sue sold the chalet and moved close to Limoges where they bought a house together with two fishing lakes. There the couple ran a bed and breakfast business whilst Tom was able to indulge in his lifetime passion of fishing.
Tom found additional work in providing much needed advice to ex-pats living in the area on property and the devolution of estates on death.
Tom is remembered with enormous fondness at the firm. Combining plain speaking with a great deal of fun and kindness, his departure in 1999 left a substantial hole. From time to time when he was on one of his visits to the UK, Tom would breeze into the office and regale us with the life that he and Sue now led. Whilst never saying that he would like to be back in harness, he always wanted to know how his old colleagues and particularly his old clients were getting on. His loyalty to both never wavered.