Tributes to former lifeboatman and yachtsman who died following heart attack on Gorleston beach

Peter Johnson. Picture: James Bass

Peter Johnson. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2013

A former lifeboatman whose passion for seafaring span from restoring boats to racing yachts has died following a suspected heart attack.

Peter Johnson with the lifeboat Louise Stephens.

Peter Johnson with the lifeboat Louise Stephens. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Peter Johnson, an active member of Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Sailing Club and the Lowestoft-based Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club as well as a marine engineering expert involved with the RNLI at Southwold and Gorleston, died on Sunday after falling ill on Gorleston beach.

The 71-year-old became unwell during a race day organised by the sailing club while acting as race officer. He was treated at the scene before being taken to the James Paget University Hospital, but sadly died that afternoon.

Mr Johnson, whose late wife Lynne was a nurse, lived for many years at Corton, near Lowestoft and more recently in Burgh Castle, near Yarmouth.

A former naval architect, he was a long-serving trustee for the Alfred Corry Museum in Southwold, getting involved after he devised and helped move Cromer's old lifeboat shed to the Suffolk town in 1998 where it was given a new lease of life as an RNLI museum. He was also a qualified boat builder who in recent years spearheaded the campaign to restore Gorleston's former lifeboat, the Louise Stephens.

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Des Mallion, Mr Johnson's cousin who worked alongside him to repair the Louise Stephens - a Dunkirk Little Ship, said: 'Peter served on the Louise Stephens from 1959 to 1967 and I guess I'm following in his footsteps. He was a very active cousin, always ready to help.

'He and his partner Annie loved going away on skiing and sailing holidays. Being a naval architect he could always be found in the Gorleston Yacht Club dingy park tinkering with yachts trying to improve the way they would handle. And as a very keen committee member he would always be the first there and the last to leave and was often seen controlling the races off Gorleston on the committee boat.

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'Once he found out where the Louise Stephens was lying it was only going to be a matter of time for Peter to get her back from the top of Scotland.

'His passion, drive and determination brought that lifeboat home.'

Mr Mallion, who is currently a Gorleston lifeboatman, said the restoration project will continue. And, in tribute to Mr Johnson, the RNLI lifeboat will raise its flag at half mast on the day of his funeral.

Mr Johnson leaves a daughter, Jenny, and two grandchildren. He is also survived by his mother, Joyce.

To pay tribute to Mr Johnson, email or call 01493 847954.

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