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Passed Away On: 2016-11-06 00:00:00


William “Bill” Coates was born June 21, 1950 in Bakersfield. He grew up learning subsistence gardening from his father and as a teen would frequent the local library and agricultural extension office learning how to improve the harvest. In 1970 he left Bakersfield with not much more than $5 and a used bicycle to attend UC Davis.

At UC Davis Bill earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in horticulture and completed post-graduate study at Oregon State University. From 1970 on, Bill became a devout fan of the Aggies, attending most home football games for the next 45 years.

Bill came to San Benito County in 1976 to work as a farm advisor in the University of California Cooperative Extension office, specializing in tree fruit and nut crops. Over the years his responsibilities grew to include fruit and nut crops in San Benito, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Clara counties. Through his extensive research studies with university colleagues and education efforts with local growers he became known as an expert in several crops, but his passion was apricots and walnuts. He would routinely get growers from as far away as Europe and Australia seeking his advice. For many years he contributed a periodic newspaper column with tips on home gardening, chronicling the development of his “home orchard” containing nearly 20 fruit trees in a standard city backyard.

Bill met his future wife Nancy on a blind date in 1982 and was later married in 1985 (timing the wedding between codling moth flights). They have three children – Ryan, Ashley, and Darren (all graduates of UC Davis as well) and recently welcomed daughter-in-law Amber to the family.

Bill retired in 2011 but continued to perform research as a Farm Advisor Emeritus. He enjoyed practicing photography, riding steam trains, and reading about World War II – and he was always planning his next trip to Hawaii.

After a long battle with cancer, Bill passed at home surrounded by family on November 6, 2016 at the age of 66.

A celebration of life will be held on Monday, November 14 at 4pm at Gilroy Presbyterian Church, 6000 Miller Ave, Gilroy.