A TRUE gentleman from Riding Mill, who was a friend of former US president Jimmy Carter, has died at the age of 68.

A long-serving member of Tynedale Rugby Club, Tony Coates served as a player, president, treasurer, and all-round committee member.

Tributes have been paid to the father-of-two, who died suddenly at home on July 12.

Tony spent his early life in Allendale, where his father, Neville, was headmaster of the local school.

He went on to attend the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle and University College London, where he obtained an economics degree, before qualifying as a chartered accountant.

Tony joined the Stephenson Coates accountancy firm, becoming a partner in 1977, and a managing partner in 1995, before retiring as a director of the practice in 2017.

He was also involved with the Friendship Force movement, which promoted travel and exchange visit opportunities for people in the UK and America.

Tony became friends with Jimmy Carter, who in a 1997 newspaper article recalled how a decade earlier, he had stayed with Tony and his wife Jenny at their home in Riding Mill, during a visit to the UK.

The ex-president fondly remembered how he and his wife Rosalynn enjoyed spending time with the couple, and the Coates’ daughters Amy and Charlotte.

During the visit, Tony even took the former US leader for a three-and-a-half mile run, taking in Riding Mill and surrounding countryside.

An avid sportsman, Tony captained Tynedale Rugby Club’s Grasshoppers team, and made many appearances as a number eight.

The rugby club’s John Shotton said: “Tony was a true gent and a big friend of mine for many years.

“He was a lovely family man, a smashing fellow, and great company. He will be sadly missed by us all.”

A keen supporter of Newcastle United, Tony, who had two grandchildren, played cricket for Newton in his younger days, and also enjoyed golf.

Family and friends gathered for a service at St Andrew’s Church in Corbridge, on Wednesday.