Life lived to the full' tribute

PUBLISHED: 15:05 07 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:34 10 June 2010

THE congregration at a packed Woodbury funeral spilled out into the churchyard on Tuesday as the village celebrated the life of Major Jonathan Lear OBE.

THE congregration at a packed Woodbury funeral spilled out into the churchyard on Tuesday as the village celebrated the life of Major Jonathan Lear OBE.

A loudspeaker outside relayed the service to mourners forced to stand in the rain when the church reached full capacity at the service remembering the popular former Royal Marine and charity fundraiser who died on Saturday, July 25 aged 60.

The Woodbury father of four was described as a "born leader of men" and as "utterly dedicated" to the Royal Marines, in a moving service during which three of his daughters spoke of their memories of a loving father and inspiring role model, writes Emma Silverthorne.

The congregation heard from the Rev Ian Pusey, who led the service at St Swithun's Church with Father John Clapham, of a man with "untold energy and commitment" to village and family life.

Mr Pusey described Major Lear as a major part of the fabric of life of the village, the church, the Royal Marines, and of causes including the cancer charity Force.

He said: "Jonathan was able to enhance the lives of others with his own skills and abilities. When he walked into a room the atmosphere changed. This was so, even in his final days."

Family friend Edward Shutt told how Major Lear, born in Liverpool, signed up to the Marines aged 20 and later met his wife Chris while he was stationed in Malta and she was a senior nursing sister.

Mourners heard how he was awarded the prestigious King's Badge for the most outstanding recruit.

The popular major featured in the BB2 documentary Behind the Lines and later in the Commando TV series. He was noted for his outstanding contribution to recruit training, for which he received an OBE in 1993. The award also acknowledged his huge contribution to charities such as Vranch House for disabled children.

On retirement from the Marines, Major Lear helped with the founding of an organisation working to help young offenders, he then volunteered with the charity Side by Side as a mentor for educationally challenged adults.

A singer in the church choir, captain of the bell tower, a member of Woodbury Twinning Association and the local British Legion branch and MC in several of the annual village musical hall shows, Major Lear was integral to community life.

Mr Stutt referred to his friend's passion for bread making, which he used to benefit charities by selling loaves from a container outside the family home.

Sailing, gardening, model railways and dancing were also listed among his many interests.

"Such widely respected and loved characters like Jonathan Lear don't come along very often... he touched the lives of many, he enriched life and lived it to the full - the truest testament of a life well lived."

Mr Strutt ended by paying tribute to the achievements of Major Lear's daughters Catherine, Emma, Rebecca and Sarah and outlined their respective successes in the fields of nursing, publishing and the RAF.

l The family have expressed their thanks for the many prayers, tributes and messages of condolence received. Donations to Force in memory of Jonathan can be sent to Richard Gegg and Son, Funeral Directors, 47 Rolle Street, Exmouth.

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