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Gazette >

THE REVD KENNETH COOK

KENNETH grew up in Reading, adopted as a baby by a loving and very caring couple, Barbara Cook and her husband. He became a server at St Giles's, under the pastoral care of Canon Miller. There he felt the call to be a priest.

Once this calling was recognised, he received support from a London barrister, who gave him financial and moral encouragement through a trust fund. I met this kind and unassuming gentleman once over tea with Kenneth at the Middle Temple.

I had met Kenneth first 45 years ago at Leeds, when he arrived at the Hostel of the Resurrection - a hall of residence for ordinands run by the Community of the Resurrection. Spare places were often taken up by those who, like Kenneth, were trying to get A levels to qualify for further theological training. He found his course hard going. But I think he enjoyed his time overall.

He was the butt of jokes, but took them in his stride. Once, other students connected an upright vacuum cleaner to the light socket of his room, so that when he switched on the light, the machine roared into life and advanced rapidly on him. His career in the rugby team was cut short on the first day by a fractured arm.

About 1963, Kenneth moved to Brasted College in Kent for further pre-theological training. He did vacation work as a verger at St Paul's Cathedral. The knowledge he gleaned there impressed other students, and was good experience. Three years later, he went to Chichester Theological College, where we met again in my last term there. Again Kenneth struggled with the studies, but stuck at them with eventual success. He was made a deacon in 1968 in his home diocese of Oxford, serving in Slough under Canon Eric Perkins.

After four years, he moved to Duston, in Peterborough diocese. Then in 1976 he became Vicar of St Hilda's in Halifax under Bishop Eric Treacy. There his mother, now widowed, joined him.

In 1979, he took a job that he really enjoyed: for 11 years, he was Chaplain at Huddersfield Polytechnic, later a University. He felt at home in the student world, and made many lasting friendships. His ministry blossomed. While there, he took a degree in History and Politics, already his key subjects, and his studies fuelled his ability to engage most people in lively debate. Yet he never lost sight of his calling to be a priest: to draw others into a growing relationship with the Lord and his Church.

In 1990, he moved to St Mary le Wigford in Lincoln, where he enjoyed a special ministry to the Mayor, the County Council, and the Theatre Royal, as well as to the local congregation. He had to raise large sums of money for repairs, and proved to be very successful at it.

After 12 years, he moved to St Thomas's in Skirbeck, Boston. Sadly, his health deteriorated rapidly. With knee, heart, and breathing problems, in 2003 he retired early. He moved back to Lincoln with his mother, and, with the Pensions Board's help, acquired a house in Western Crescent.

In Leeds days, several of us tried to pair him off with a female student. One was quite interested, but her priorities did not match his. He would have liked a family, but became an amazing godfather, at least seven or eight times over.

He enjoyed travel, particularly in later life. He frequently visited Madrid, Rome, and Malta, as well as London; and he had planned to visit Prague this year. He visited my wife and me on the Isle of Wight last summer, to coincide the Trafalgar celebrations: Nelson's life had special significance for him.

He died on 12 January, aged 63.

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