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Rosemarie Cockayne

24 April 2015

Multi-talented: Rosemarie Cockayne was a dancer, artist, designer, and community worker

Multi-talented: Rosemarie Cockayne was a dancer, artist, designer, and community worker

The Revd Robert Norwood writes:

ROSEMARIE COCKAYNE, who died on 3 February, was in her younger years a dancer of great distinction, and later a talented artist and designer. She was a committed Anglican churchwoman, with a strongly ecumenical outlook and an active involvement in inter-faith relations.

Rosemarie (née Biggars), whose father was Scottish Canadian, was born in Montreal, but came to the UK in her early childhood. Initially, she attended the once well-known, fascinatingly progressive Miss Ironside's School, in Kensington. From there, Rosemarie, who was a wonderful friend to many, formed friendships that lasted all her life. She went to the Royal Ballet School, and soon adopted, initially for stage purposes, her mother's surname Cockayne.

Leaving the Royal Ballet School, her career quickly developed. She danced internationally, her stage life culminating as prima ballerina at the Basle State Ballet.

While in Switzerland, she started to paint, and, returning to England, she studied at St Martin's School of Art and Morley College. Thereafter, she drew and painted in diverse media, holding many exhibitions. A close friend and influence was the Revd Tubby Clayton, whose portrait she drew in pastels. Additionally, she designed stage sets and costumes; those executed for the Dublin City Ballet have recently been accepted by the Irish National Theatre Archive in Limerick.

Rosemarie's contribution to Christian life, particularly in the diocese of London, was committed and diverse; so only some of her activities can be mentioned.

An especial love was the Church of St Bartholomew the Less, where she was churchwarden for many years. She strove always to make this lovely church a shrine of prayer and a place of Christian welcome. A lover of nature, she planted and tended a beautiful garden around the church, while spending regular hours as a compassionate hospital visitor in Barts. In recent years, she was a volunteer in the chaplaincy team at the Chelsea and Westminster. This kind lady, with a wonderful smile and gentle manner, was, indeed, still visiting and comforting patients when she knew that her cancer was terminal.

Rosemarie was for many years involved in the ministry of St Paul's Cathedral, and later was a keen volunteer at Westminster Abbey, involving herself there in many ways.

Beyond her use of her talents as an illustrator for Christian and other publications, a very special contribution was her untiring work in the field of art in the community. She was artist-in-residence for Provident Row in east London, running workshops for young people, addicts, and visitors to the drop-in centre, and was also engaged in similar work in various other venues. Another strong interest and involvement was the Connection at St Martin-in-the- Fields, where she played a significant part in developing the annual service commemorating the homeless who have died on the streets of London or in hostels.

With her dancing background, she realised how music and movement could be beneficial to the frail and confused. She formed links with Roman Catholic and Anglican convents, working in this way with elderly nuns, some suffering from Alzheimer's.

Rosemarie formed strong links with the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust when they were providing support to a friend of hers who had been seriously disabled seeking to save a neighbour who was being criminally attacked. She herself over many years provided invaluable loving assistance to this heroic man.

Her love of animals and birds was so strong that her commitment to animal welfare cannot go unmentioned.

Rosemarie's requiem was celebrated in St John the Baptist's, Holland Road, which was packed to the doors with people from many walks of her life, a few being homeless people who had come, having heard of her death.

Rich though her contributionwas to Christian life in London, she also always maintained contactwith another St John the Baptist's Church, her beloved family church in Cockayne Hatley, where her ashes will be laid to rest in the churchyard.

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