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Entrepreneurial villager remembered at a special service after dying of a short illness, aged 92

By Aidan Barlow

Family, friends and residents will pay their last respects to an entrepreneurial Marsh villager who built several businesses from humble beginnings.

John Coker spent his life in Dymchurch, where he became renowned for running cafes, fish and chip shops and donkey rides on the beach for generations of children, and his motto was ‘you can always make money from a cup of tea’.

He died last month at the age of 92 after a short illness, and will be remembered as a big character who was a mine of information about everyone and everything that was going on.


Today he will be remembered with a funeral procession starting at Mill Road and walking to the church of St Peter and St Paul from 10.45am.

Born in Dymchurch on April 18, 1924, he grew up in the village with older brother Jim and younger sister Ginny and also attended school locally.

His father Ernest was also a businessman who acted as an inspiration for John, renting out deckchairs on the beach and offering fishing boat and pleasure trips for tourists and visitors.

He was an evacuee during the Second World War, and worked on a farm in Surrey before returning to Romney Marsh.

He bought a Triumph motorcycle, which he would use to try to woo the Land Girls. He married his wife Desiree in 1948 and together they had five children, David, Kevin, Jean, Deana and Linda.

He began working at the former Ferryfield Airport (now Lydd airport) in the 1950s, taking cargo planes to the continent and bringing back cars which he would sell on with his friend Wally Roots for a tidy profit.

John's daughter daughter Deana on a donkey
John's daughter daughter Deana on a donkey

He then worked as a labourer at Dungeness power station, realising the opportunity for a tea and snacks trolley on the side. It was at this time he bought eight donkeys for rides along the beach, which helped fund his later business ventures.

In a statement the family said: “John was so proud to call Dymchurch his home. During his life he made the most of the opportunities the village had to offer.

“John was always alert to the opportunities that came his way. If he decided he wanted something, he would be dogmatic in finding a way to get it.

A young John Coker
A young John Coker

“For the village he was a familiar sight and a friend to catch up with. For our family, he was the glue that held us together.”

John had 16 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, for whom he held a keen interest and pride in every one.

Donations and flowers can be given to the Dymchurch and District Heritage Group, of which he was the honorary president.

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