On Monday 11 March final 12 months, tons of flocked into St John’s Church in Maindee to pay their respects to Don Felkin.
Rather less than a month earlier, Mr Felkin, who had run scouts soccer and based Cromwell Youth AFC, had handed away aged 83.
St John’s Church has a wealthy historical past, having famously been destroyed in the course of the Second World Conflict.
However on this event, it was all a couple of man who many take into account to be the footballing father of Newport.
As previous associates, teammates and new generations gathered, the day turned much less a morbid affair and extra a celebration of a person who was an enormous a part of Newport’s footballing neighborhood.
‘Don saved many a teen’
A soccer fanatic and lifelong scout member, Don Felkin had arrange the primary St Andrews Cubs and Scouts soccer membership within the 1950s, adopted by the establishing of Cromwell Youth AFC in 1957.
For a lot of younger boys in Newport, it was an opportunity to play. An opportunity to make associates and pursue a ardour. It allowed youngsters to lastly recreate the tales of Johnny Haynes, Bobby Charlton and the heroes their mother and father examine within the papers.
However there was extra to it than that. Extra importantly, it provided a lifeline to many who, at a time of few financial alternatives, may so simply have gone down a darker path.
“He in all probability saved hundreds from misadventure,” says Terry Jenkins, who captained Cromwell Youths beneath Felkin.
“Folks had no cash, there was nothing for individuals within the space at the moment.
“You used to listen to about quite a lot of youngsters moving into bother, crime and all that. But it surely was by no means the Cromwell boys.
“They stayed out of it, as a result of that they had soccer.
“They regarded as much as Don. He would by no means preach to them or something. He was simply the instance that each one the boys adopted.”
Unbiased Lliswerry councillor Allan Morris, who nominated Felkin for the 2007 BBC Unsung Hero award, agrees that “Don saved many a teen from moving into bother”.
“I bear in mind first assembly him and seeing him there on the sideline together with his canine, watching the youngsters play. It was pouring rain and I requested him what he was doing.
“He stated ‘It’s necessary that the youngsters know there’s somebody there watching them play.’
“He had a real curiosity in seeing youngsters off the streets. That was the type of individual he was”
‘He gave his life to the youngsters in Newport’
Beneath Felkin’s cautious tutelage, soccer in Newport blossomed. At the moment, Cromwell Youths solely had two groups, however at present there are much more dotted round Lysachts Park, the place Cromwell play, and round the remainder of Newport.
“Just about the entire crew got here from the Corpa space in these days, however the repute of the membership beneath Don’s course would entice quite a lot of gamers from different components of the city and past,” says Darren Little, who performed with Cromwell beneath Felkin.
“A few of them went on to higher issues with trials at Newport colleges, county groups and league golf equipment, together with myself, and Newport County too.”
In his later years, Felkin turned the chairman of the Gwent County FA, and was additionally concerned with Newport County.
Chatting with individuals about Felkin, nearly everybody has their very own story to inform. Maybe the most typical reminiscence is that of a younger man using round Newport and Rogerstone on his push bike on a wet Friday night time, hurriedly making last preparations for that weekend’s video games.
“He’d be ensuring individuals knew the place and when the video games have been on, and asking different groups in the event that they wished to play,” Terry Jenkins recollects.
“A number of the boys could be coming in on totally different buses on match days, and he’d wait for each single one to reach.
“If any boy couldn’t afford a bus fare to a recreation from his mother and father, he’d make sure that he lined it. Nothing was an excessive amount of bother for him.”
Kevin Bale, a lifelong pal who grew up only a road down from Felkin, remembers a person whose generosity knew few boundaries.
“He used to go down the sports activities store and purchase balls and kits for the youngsters together with his personal wages,” he remembers.
“Numerous the boys couldn’t afford to go to the soccer camps in the course of the summer time and winter, and in some instances he’d even pay for them.
“He by no means married or had youngsters, he gave his life to soccer and the youngsters in Newport.”
Regardless of being 24 years youthful, Bale grew near Felkin, whose solely different direct household was his youthful brother Brian. When he was in sick well being in later years, Bale would assist look after Felkin.
And one thing Felkin advised him at some point, a couple of 12 months earlier than his demise, nonetheless humbles him at present.
“He turned to me and stated he remembered the day he let me be part of the scouts. He saved telling me there was no house, however as a result of I used to be so cussed and sat on the wall for 3 months, he gave in.
“He checked out me and stated ‘Have you learnt what? It was the perfect factor I ever did. Since you’re the son I by no means had’.”
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‘A exceptional man’
Felkin’s brush with the highlight got here in 2007 with the BBC Unsung Hero competitors, which recognises native figures for his or her impression on their neighborhood.
Though he narrowly missed out on the award, Felkin received to attend the star-studded BBC Sports activities Persona of the Yr ceremony that 12 months.
Cllr Morris attended the ceremony with Felkin, and remembers it fondly.
“He was so gracious, however even when he didn’t win it didn’t matter to him. Joe Calzaghe was there and paid tribute to him. So many individuals that night time recognised what these individuals do for his or her native communities.”
However there’s one different reminiscence from the night time that sticks in his thoughts.
“At one level Don disappeared for ten minutes and I assumed he’d gone to the bathroom. I went searching for him and he had fallen asleep within the limo.
“I’d had a tough time persuading him to go to the ceremony. He was a quiet, unassuming man, however I advised him ‘look, even if you happen to don’t wish to go to the ceremony, there’s a free meal for you’.
“Don favored his meals, and after the meal there he was asleep behind the limo!”
This Sunday February 16 at 12pm, to mark one 12 months since Felkin’s passing, a memorial plaque shall be unveiled at Lysachts Park on Company Highway.
Saying the world “may do with extra Don Felkins”, Cllr Morris, who will communicate on the unveiling, says:
“Don cared as a lot about youngsters sitting on the subs’ bench as he did about those that would possibly go on to be superstars. It was all the identical to him. He was a exceptional man.”
The disclosing of Don Felkin’s plaque at Lysachts Park will happen at 12pm on Sunday February 16.