In memoriam: Bill Coates
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 to learn 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, Coates earned a bachelor's and master's degree in horticulture and completed postgraduate study at Oregon State University. From 1970 on, Coates became a devout fan of the Aggies, attending most home football games for the next 45 years.
Coates 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. Growers from as far away as Europe and Australia routinely sought 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.
Coates met his wife, Nancy, on a blind date in 1982 and they 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.
Coates 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.