Tributes have been pouring in for Crawley Judo Club founder and chief coach John Pluckrose.
John, a much-loved sportsman who coached generations of youngsters since starting the club in 1954, died on New Year’s Day.
He was still coaching two sessions a week at the age of 89 until May last year.
He was also a long serving senior judo examiner for the southern area.
In a tribute this week by the British Judo Association, Ben Pollard said: “John leaves behind an extraordinary legacy in judo in Crawley and a huge gap in the judo lives of all who knew him and we mourn his passing, but at the same time, we celebrate the foundations that he worked tirelessly to maintain and grow within the sport.”
The level of respect earned by John, who lived at Ridgeside in Three Bridges, was marked in June 2015, when at the age of 87, he joined a select group of people in the UK awarded a 6th Dan belt in recognition of his outstanding lifelong contribution to judo.
He was surprised with the rare honour issued by British Judo which was presented to him by Crawley Judo Club president and friend, Councillor Brian Quinn.
Mr Quinn said: “It was a huge achievement - bigger than winning the FA Cup or European cup.”
And he added: “John was an all-round sportsman but his first love was judo.”
Former international judo referee Graham Turner said John was the mainstay of the Crawley club since its foundation in Tilgate and was “a dear friend.
“Nearly every Friday morning we would meet up and have a discussion, not about judo, mostly about his union work and my work as a manager - and his wife Eileen was referee.”
Crawley Judo Club coaches Paul Teasdale and Juliette Aubrey-Smith also paid tribute to John.
They said: “He was just an unbelievable individual. Whoever he taught, he imparted so much advice and wisdom.
“We have known him since the 1970s and he has helped us work our way up the grading system right from junior, senior and Dan grades. He was a hugely respected figure at the club and will leave a big hole in our hearts.
“Whilst he has been ill, John recently sent one of our young judoka a card congratulating him on receiving his green belt. He loved to celebrate his students’ successes. That is the measure of the man and how much he cared for the development of the club, its students and the sport as a whole.
“Our thoughts are with all of John’s family and everyone who knew him.”
John, whose funeral was held on Friday, leaves his wife Eileen, two sons and a daughter.