Robert Lockwood Coates


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Robert Lockwood Coates, 73, passed peacefully from this earth Friday, Dec. 28, at Newton Medical Center after a very short illness. Bob was surrounded by his loving family and friends as he was in life. Son of the late Gilbert K. and Helen J. Coates of Sussex, N.J, Robert was born July 26, 1945, at the Alexander Linn Hospital, Sussex. Bob graduated from Sussex High School in 1963 and attended Maryville College in Tennessee from 1963-65. He enlisted and served in the United States Army from 1966-1968 during the Vietnam conflict where he served as both a driver and as a wireman. Upon returning from service to his country, Bob returned to Maryville University and Montclair State College from 1968-1970 where he earned two Master of Education Degrees. One for Principal/Supervisor and the other as Educator of the Handicapped.

Early in his career, Bob began teaching at Montclair Public Schools from 1971-1974 where he taught classes for emotionally disturbed children. In 1975, Bob began teaching at the Sussex Wantage School District. There he taught classes of Emotionally Disturbed, Neurologically Impaired and Perceptually Impaired. He worked for Sussex-Wantage School for 35 ½ years and retired in December 2010. Always involved teaching children, Bob was instrumental in creating the Gebhard Environmental Center for the Sussex-Wantage District. He blazed trails and developed activities for all children to experience nature and outdoor activities. Later, Bob helped as co-director of both the Sussex-Wantage Summer Care and Before/After Care Programs. Most recently, Bob was a bedside instructor for the Sussex-Wantage Schools and the Records Keeper for the Care Programs. Always a friend, Bob enjoyed hunting, fishing and making maple syrup at his farm in Wantage. When he wasn’t working with his backhoe or other tractors you could find him cutting wood for his sap stove. On quiet days he enjoyed Sudoku puzzles and putting jigsaw puzzles together on his dining room table although he said he was never as as fast as Dolores Polyi. Bob was happy to see friends and shared many adventures over the years as we are all left with our “Bob”stories. Bob had a great sense of humor and could tell stories for hours. Bob had the ability to spark a conversation with anyone and within minutes the two would be talking like old friends. He would make new friends every day from cashiers to gas attendants or whomever he encountered. He had the gift of gab and a friendly demeanor that made people comfortable with him. Bob was a Rube Goldberg. He couldn’t throw away anything without first creating 10 different uses for the item. He used to love to say he did things “Like an Egyptian”. He enjoyed the challenge of every obstacle. His former students remember Mr.Coates as “the maker of soup” as he loved creating homemade soups with his students bringing in measurement and reading skills. He was also “the creator of games”. He could turn any arduous task into a fun-filled event that challenged thinking and gave wonderful rewards to the students. What student didn’t learn the magic of nine with multiplication or the secret of nimh with Bob? Over the years, Bob must have purchased hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies or donated to every Boy Scout car wash or bake sale he came across. Bob was a man with deep pockets and he gave freely to others. From planting trees and a vegetable garden at the school to running cable to each room for cable T.V., Bob was there. He devoted himself to service of all.

He was a member of the local Sussex-Wantage Education Association, National Education Association, Retired Teachers Association, Sierra Club, Pvt. Charles Auberger American Legion Post 213, and the REC Cooperative Advisory Committee.

Bob is survived by his brother Gary Coates and his wife Yvonne of 87 Lake Wallkill Road, Sussex, NJ and John Coates and wife Jackie of 19 Little Brooklyn Road, Warwick, N.Y. He is also survived by nephew Lawson Coates of West Caldwell and great nephews Hunter and Cristian. In addition, he is survived by a niece Julie and Ed Haran of New Egypt and grand niece Gracie. He leaves behind many good friends who will miss him very much.

He also is survived by his cat D.C., “Darn Cat,” whom he adopted as a kitten.

To us, Bob was our best friend. He was always there and always “Bob”. The world is a bit darker today with the loss of this shining spirit. Now Heaven is blessed. He brightened all our lives by simply knowing him.

In lieu of flowers the family requests all memorial donations be made to the Pvt. Charles Auberger American Legion Post 213, 915 Route 23 Wantage, NJ 07461. Cremation is private for the family.

A celebration of Bob’s life is planned following his interment at the Veterans’ Cemetery, Route 94, Lafayette,

NJ. The Celebration of life is planned at Sussex Methodist Church, Sussex, N.J., in the Spring.



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