Tributes have been paid to the ‘grandfather of Exmouth Lifeboat Station’ Don Hodgkinson who has died following a short illness at the age of 80.
Popular and well-known Don has been remembered for the ‘exemplary service’ he gave to the town’s branch of the RNLI as a volunteer over 24 years.
He started with the charity as a box secretary in June 1998 before becoming deputy launch authority and sea safety advisor from 2003 to 2011.
Don then served as boathouse manager from 2011 and became chair of the fundraising team in 2007 – a post he held for 11 years.
His dedication to helping save lives at sea was recognised in 2018 when he was awarded the RNLI Badge and Certificate for completing 20 years of service.
Former Exmouth RNLI lifeboat operations manager Kevin Riley said ‘quiet fundraiser’ Don’s efforts ‘went way beyond the roles he carried out with dedication, compassion and understanding’.
And his love for the cause and ‘his crew’ was ‘second-to-none’, added Mr Riley.
“In his spare time he was not slow in coming forward in the very mundane menial tasks around the station,” he said.
“From keeping the galley, to the toilets and many other jobs around the station in keeping it pristine for the public, crew, visitors and RNLI inspections.”
“He was able to speak his mind when required and could also steer everyone in the station onto the right course by his example and dedication, thus we all had to admit, begrudgingly at times, that he led the way by lessons learned and experience.
“This made him undoubtably the best fundraiser the station has known, not just as the ‘box collector’ as he must have raised tens of thousands of pounds in that role alone.
“His efforts in the fundraising appeal for what was to be the new lifeboat station were an example to many locally, but he had contacts, donors and supporters both nationally and internationally.
“It still has me puzzled to this day how he reached so many and raised so much for the station.”
Mr Riley added: “But Don was a hero to us. Exmouth RNLI and Exmouth and its thousands of visitors will, I am sure, acknowledge Don as the very quiet and unrecognised hero of Exmouth in his own right.
“With all that he has done to leave a legacy unknown to many for silently raising the funds that allow the crew to ‘save lives at sea’.”
“Rest in peace Don, as your Legacy lives on and will be cherished by many.”
Current lifeboat operations manager Ian Taylor said: “Don was always the friendly face at the station, welcoming newcomers, and tirelessly working away at the fundraising to keep the station operational.
“He would be the one you could go to with just about any query you had and he would say, ‘Leave it with me – I’ll sort it out’.”
“Don and Sue, his late partner, were very regularly selling jams and cakes at every opportunity on top of his numerous fundraising activities.
“He was even getting new collection boxes placed from his sick bed in the last few weeks.
“They will be best remembered in many of the crew’s minds and stomachs for the copious quantities of the best home-made sausage rolls you could find, and these were donated to many a lifeboat exercise.
“He will be sorely missed by all the crew and all he came into contact within the wider RNLI team, and also the wives, husbands and partners of us all who were given the welcome cheer.”
“To the grandfather of Exmouth Lifeboat Station – thank you and rest in peace.”
Deputy coxswain and full-time Exmouth RNLI mechanic Andy Stott added: “In my 24 years at the station, I’ve never come across a person that is more dedicated to the RNLI than Don.
“Over the last four years since I took on the role as station mechanic, Don has always been there in the background making sure the station is fully stocked with food, cakes, drinks and his renowned sausage rolls so that, when we got back from a shout, the crew were looked after.
“Don is going to be missed by so many. Fair winds and following seas my friend, I’m going to miss you.”
Don, a retired fire service officer in Hertfordshire, died on June 12.
Funeral arrangements will be detailed by Exmouth RNLI when known.