Hundreds attend Hereward Cooke funeral

Mary HamiltonMuch-loved priest and former Norwich city councillor Hereward Cooke embarked on his final journey yesterday when family and friends wished him farewell at a crowded church funeral.Mary Hamilton

Much-loved priest and former Norwich city councillor Hereward Cooke embarked on his final journey yesterday when family and friends wished him farewell at a crowded church funeral.

About 500 people packed St Nicholas' Church in Blakeney to mark his death and celebrate his life as a priest, councillor, environmental campaigner, cyclist, sailor, family man and friend.

A separate service for those unable to get to Blakeney was held in St Peter Mancroft church in Norwich, where Canon Michael Stagg led a congregation of about 80 people in prayers to coincide with the funeral.

Canon Cooke died in his sleep on December 15 while at the Copenhagen climate change summit with the charity Christian Aid.

As the Diocese of Norwich's environmental officer, the 70-year-old completed a 150-mile charity cycle ride across Denmark with 25 other campaigners to reach the conference three days earlier.

At the service his daughter Frances read a series of text messages she had exchanged with him on his journey - the last time she had communicated with him before he died.

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They spoke of how much he enjoyed the ride and the visit to Copenhagen, as well as how proud his family was of his enthusiasm and passion for life.

His son Arthur also read a tribute recalling his father's address at his wedding earlier this year, and the Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham James praised his youthful spirit, affection and passion.

Tributes have also been paid on the website, where Canon Cooke had set up a page for people to sponsor his cycle ride.

Since his death friends, family and well-wishers have donated more than �600, helping to exceed his target of raising �2,000 for Christian Aid. Collections made at the funeral will also be split between Christian Aid and the Blakeney Neighbourhood Housing Society.

Despite extra seats laid out to accommodate the crowds there was standing room only by the time the service began, with people finding room to perch among the nativity figures and stacks of jigsaws for parishioners to borrow.

Sir Timothy Colman, the Bishop of Lynn the Rt Rev James Langstaff and restaurant owner David Adlard were among the congregation in Blakeney but bad weather in other parts of the country prevented some mourners getting to the county.

Canon Cooke spent time holidaying by the sea in Blakeney during his childhood living in Hungerford in Berkshire, and was one of the longest serving members of the Blakeney Sailing Club.

He moved to Norwich as a team vicar in 1989 and was also industrial chaplain for 16 years until he retired from this post in 2005.

Between 1993 and 2008 he was curate at St Peter Mancroft, including five years as priest at nearby St Stephen's.

He was also deputy leader of Norwich City Council after becoming Liberal Democrat councillor for Lakenham in 2000 but had stood down when he retired.

In Blakeney he continued to minister and became active in local affairs, especially the Neighbourhood Housing Society.

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