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Obituary: The Ven. Clive Cohen

17 May 2019

The Ven. Clive Cohen, who brought his banking experience to bear on his work as an archdeacon

The Ven. Clive Cohen, who brought his banking experience to bear on his work as an archdeacon

A correspondent writes:

THE ongoing health of the diocese of Truro’s finances is, in no small part, thanks to the shrewd financial acumen of the Ven. Clive Cohen, who died on 8 April, aged 73.

While Archdeacon of Bodmin, he used skills garnered during a decade in banking to streamline its strategic planning and give spreadsheet totals an extremely welcome fillip. He saw this as very much a core part of his vocation, and pushed for everyone within the diocese to take a similar interest in their financial future.

The Dean of Truro, the Very Revd Roger Bush, said: “Clive was very radical and innovative. Without him, we wouldn’t be in the position of being an accountable and responsible group of people who will make sure that what we believe in can carry on.”

Clive may have nicknamed his post for the parish work which came with being archdeacon “Complaints Manager for East Cornwall”, but he was a skilled trouble-shooter and compassionate leader of clergy in the diocese.

He also maintained, assisted with the detailed planning of, and preached at the annual “Remember our Child” service held in Truro Cathedral for the families of young people who had died.

Clive Ronald Franklin Cohen was born on 30 January 1946 in London, and attended Tonbridge School. He met June Kefford when he was aged 19, shortly after starting as a junior assistant master at Edinburgh House Preparatory School, New Milton, where her father was the headmaster. The teenagers realised almost immediately that theirs would be a lifelong devotion, and they were married in April 1969.

With the provision for a young family in mind, Clive joined the Midland Bank, where he worked for a decade, becoming office manager of the branch in Streatham, south London.

Behind a slight professional reserve lay a man who felt deeply and loved his family fiercely. When the couple’s third child, Aidan, died within a month of his birth in November 1977, the resultant seismic emotional fracture led Clive to act on a long-held nagging urge to enter the priesthood.

He began his training at Salisbury and Wells Theological College in the autumn of 1979, was ordained in Guildford Cathedral two years later, and then served his title in Esher, Surrey.

Clive’s years as Rector of Winterslow, Wiltshire (1985-2000), were supremely happy ones, during which he galvanised the community, initiated a new village hall, and hauled the church finances out of debt and on to a secure footing.

His meticulously prepared sermons, delivered in a hallmark deep and honeyed voice from a lofty 6 ft 5 in. above the pulpit floor, were easily accessible and punchy: he believed that what you could not say in six minutes was not worth saying.

The couple moved to Teignmouth when Clive tried to retire in May 2011, only for him to serve two terms as a Chapter Canon of Exeter Cathedral and become Acting Archdeacon of Totnes for a year. He was still conducting services in and around Teignmouth after a second retirement attempt in the summer of 2017, besides serving as the Chair of Trustees of Teign Heritage until January this year.

Clive collected royal commemorative china all his life, wrote for leading historical journals, opened a bottle of good port to accompany every significant family milestone, and was an impassioned Bath Rugby supporter. He could be occasionally seen walking through Truro with two items under his arm: a newly purchased painting and a bunch of flowers with which to ease the surprise of the monetary outlay domestically.

While a committed Christian and Anglican priest, he was intensely proud of his Jewish roots.

Clive’s final priestly act was to baptise his youngest grandchild, Rudy, on his hospital bed on Mothering Sunday.

He died on 8 April, a mere four days short of what would have been his and June’s golden wedding anniversary. She survives him, together with their children, Katherine, Alexander, William, and Edward, and seven grandchildren.

With habitual precision, Clive told his wife of his enduring love for her one last time at his funeral: the Second World War SOE agent Violette Szabo’s code poem “The Life That I Have” was recited at his graveside in Winterslow, the village where they had once lived so contentedly.

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