Belfast Telegraph

1,000 mourners say farewell to 'a perfect wife and mother' - Lesley Scates

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

A role model for all.

That was how mother-of-two Lesley Scates was described as around 1,000 mourners – young and old – joined together in Comber to say farewell at her funeral.

The wife of Bangor Football Club manager Garth Scates was laid to rest yesterday amid emotional scenes.

The popular and much-loved PE teacher and former senior ladies hockey player (right) died at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on October 23, a week after she was critically injured in a car crash.

Her family and friends spent a week of hoping and praying that she would come out of the coma following the accident as she was treated in the intensive care unit.

The 35-year-old was involved in a single vehicle crash while driving along the town's Killinchy Road.

Second Comber Presbyterian Church – where she was married just seven years before – was packed to capacity, with mourners also filling up the church's driveway and car park outside.

The couple's two children Gabriella (4) and Elliot (2) did not attend the funeral.

The tragedy not only impacted on those involved in football, hockey and netball, but also the wider Comber community, as both Mrs Scates and her husband live locally and come from local families.

The couple had just recently moved to Lisbane, Co Down.

Rev Roy Mackay described the popular young woman as being "vibrant in personality, sincere, industrious, a no-fuss" person. The minister, who had married the couple, spoke movingly of Mrs Scates and her gifts "which she worked hard at and shared with others and God."

He told the congregation her husband Garth had spoken of "his perfect wife, perfect mother".

Though the couple had each attended the local high school together at the same time, there was no hint of romance then.

Lesley returned to Comber from her university studies in Wales and Liverpool, where she achieved her teaching qualification.

Garth also returned to Northern Ireland after a period in English club football.

They met up again in 2001, started going out, then "everything else was history", Rev Mackay told the congregation.

The former captain of North Down and Harlequins ladies hockey team, where she was known by her maiden name Ditchfield, Mrs Scates was heavily involved in the local community both as a teacher and trainer at her church's Girls' Brigade.

She had begun to help out with the brigaders section, where her mother-in-law was also a leader.

Students from Nendrum College, the school at which she taught, and members of the Second Comber Presbyterian Church GB shed tears alongside former teaching colleagues and hockey players.

Andrea Krumov, the church's GB captain, spoke of the "huge gap left behind" in the organisation with Mrs Scates' tragic death.

"She will be so much missed, she was such a hard worker and the girls loved her."

After the service the family solemnly lined up behind the coffin as it was carried by Garth and other relatives as the cortege made its way from the church at Killinchy Street to the town square.

People stopped what they were doing, with heads bowed, as the funeral passed by.

Mourners then returned to the church hall for refreshments, as only close family members went to the graveyard for a private burial service.

Mrs Scates is survived by her husband and children, parents Jim and Joan Ditchfield, and brother Neil.

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