FORMER Southern Vectis traffic manager Donald Frank Howe has died, just short of his 95th birthday.

Mr Howe held the post from 1965 to 1984, during a critical period for Island transport.

He came from Piddletrenthide in Dorset, where his parents kept the village store, although by chance he was actually born in the Welsh border town of Pontypool.

He occupied his childhood leisure time fishing in the local river. Educated at Dorchester Grammar School, he gained an Oxford school certificate in 1943 and graduated as an Army cadet in 1944.

Because of his foreign language abilities, he was posted to Italy and Austria, engaged in tracking down fleeing Nazis at the end of the war. He almost lost his life driving a jeep which struck a landmine.

He studied at Bristol University, gaining a B.A. in geography. He developed a passion for motor vehicles, riding a James 200 motor-cycle from his home at Nailsea in Somerset to his bus driving job with Bristol Tramways.

While riding the motorbike he met his wife-to-be in unusual circumstances. After spotting a grass fire in Wraxall churchyard, he stopped to extinguish it but a woman mistakenly accused Don of starting the blaze. A relationship developed and Don married Ruth Vowles in that same church in December 1950.

Quickly gaining promotion with the bus company, he became divisional superintendent for Bristol City services and became involved in solving a serious staff problem which developed into a national issue, as the union staunchly opposed recruitment of immigrant crews.

After a local bus boycott, the dispute was resolved by mediation and this helped Mr Howe gain promotion to Southern Vectis as traffic manager.

During his 19-year tenure, he was faced with the rail replacement issue as the Cowes and Ventnor lines closed, revamping of uneconomic town services, the Medinabus, Rydabus, Sandliner and Cowes Clipper brand names and transport arrangements for the 1968 to 1970 Isle of Wight Festivals at remote rural locations.

He was also responsible for Vikki Osborne Holidays — a Southern Vectis operated package holiday scheme in association with British Rail.

Retiring in 1984, he advised Seaview Services on the establishment of their Red Lynx competitive service at the time of bus deregulation.

Mr Howe was a keen military modelmaker, painter and gardener in his spare time and supported the Cats Protection League in Ryde.

The couple were regular worshippers at St Paul's Church, Barton, with Mr Howe acting as treasurer in the 1990s. Although they had no children of their own, they were close to their nephews and nieces.

Mrs Howe became ill and spent her last years at The Orchard Nursing Home, visited daily by her husband until her death in 2016.

Mr Howe continued to live at his Newport home.

He died on March 24.

The funeral service was held at St Paul's Church on April 20, followed by interment at Newport Cemetery.

He leaves a nephew, two nieces and sister-in-law.