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Gravesend: tributes paid to popular angler and football referee Graham East

By Chris Hunter

Tributes have been paid to popular angler and football referee Graham East, who has died at the age of 67.

The Gravesend man, who was chairman of North Kent Sunday League and for many years wrote an angling column for the KM Group, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, prompting an outpouring of grief from family and friends.

But while his family are yet to come to term with the loss, wife Pauline said they had been overwhelmed by messages of support.

Graham East, who has passed away aged 67 (8503576)
Graham East, who has passed away aged 67 (8503576)

"We put a post on Facebook and we've had so many lovely messages saying what a lovely man he was and how he helped people," she said. "It's just been incredible.

"We're still in shock but it's great support to read those things - it's really heart-warming."

"He will be remembered for lots of things - he's helped so many people. He's run fishing groups for youngsters, and he's helped young people when they've been in trouble.

"He always had people come up to him saying 'thank you so much for your help; when I was younger you really put me straight.'"

On one occasion he even helped one youngster out by employing him in his well-known shop, Dolphin Angling Centre in Queen Street, Gravesend.

Graham outside his Dolphin Angling Centre in Queen St.
Graham outside his Dolphin Angling Centre in Queen St.

"They asked him to be the father of the groom when they got married," added Pauline. "It was just the way he was - he would help anybody. If someone came into the shop with sob story he would help them out.

"He had a heart of gold. He was one of those people that just helped people with no gain for himself."

Having grown up in Gravesend, Graham first job on leaving school was on the tugs, working as a cook and deck hand, and remained well known among the tug community. He was also well known around the area having worked for a time as a bus driver, and a social worker.

But it's for his work in the sport community that he will probably be most widely remembered.

A keen footballer as a youngster he went on to become a referee and had recently achieved 40 years service with the Kent Referees Association, Gravesend Branch.

And his mastery of the game's rules was just as evident on the pitches Kent as it was when he competed for the KRA's quiz team, with whom he won national football quizzes.

His connections also ran deep among the fishing community - who will remember him for his newspaper column, the Gravesend Open fishing competitions, which he ran three times a year, and his shop, which he ran from 1999 until retirement in 2017.

Graham East with a smooth hound
Graham East with a smooth hound

He was also a charitable man, supporting RNLI, Demelza House and Leukaemia Research, after losing a Nephew to the disease, as well as countless other charities, and had a long association with The Ship and Lobster Pub.

Friend and fellow angler Keith Slater said his passing would leave a massive hole in the lives of people he knew and the organisations he was part of.

"It's going to be such a loss," he said. "People who are not involved in football and fishing might not know, but the response to what he's done has been phenomenal.

"He was a good mate and fellow angler. He will be missed by lots of people - he was very well known."

Graham is survived by his wife Pauline, and three daughters Clair, Nicola and Katie.

His family hope to hold his funeral a St George's Church in Gravesend, followed by a cremation, but full details have not been finalised.

The North Kent Sunday League have requested clubs hold a minute's silence for Graham before matches this weekend.

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