Obituary for Cllr John Abbot
His rapid decline in health has been a shock to his family, friends and local people alike. John’s gratitude to those who were caring for him and his calm approach to his condition have been supported by his Christian faith. He died peacefully at home on Tuesday, April 5.
JOHN Abbot was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, the second son of Reg, a last maker in the shoe industry, and Violet, July 8, 1939.
John’s earliest memories were of terrifying nights spent in the bomb shelter during the World War Two. He attended the Henry Gotch Primary School in Northampton and six years later, after passing his 11+ exam he moved to Kettering Grammar School for Boys, where his interests in History and languages developed. He was an altar boy at St Mary’s Church and this is where his faith developed and deepened. Along the way he became an unbeaten boxing champion, hooker for the school rugby team and a keen follower of Northants County Cricket team, which often involved cycling round the county to watch a match. His time in Kettering finished as head boy at the Grammar School and gaining a place to read history at the University of Birmingham in 1958.
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A year later he met Judy and began a loving and supportive relationship which lasted over 50 years. At the end of his degree, John stayed on in Birmingham to train as a history teacher and a year later, as Judy finished her degree, John gained his PGCE and the two of them, now engaged, moved to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire to start their careers. The young John Abbott taught Huddersfield New College and then at Brighouse and Rastrick Grammar School until 1967. By then, daughter Helen had been born but Yorkshire was a long way from both family homes. As John started to look for promotion, he was drawn back to the southern half of the country and was appointed head of history at Soham Grammar School from September 1967. A year later, Michael was born in the former Grange Maternity Hospital, now the district council offices. So began John’s association with and period of service in East Cambridgeshire.
In 1972, when Cambridgeshire decided to abolish the 11+ exam for entry to secondary school, John moved with several colleagues to the City of Ely Community College. He continued to work here, first as head of history, then as a senior teacher and finally for 19 years as deputy head, until his retirement in July 1996. Throughout this time, John continued to serve the church community as chairman of the Fordham Deanery of parishes and on the Diocesan Synod in Ely. It was at this time that he joined the fund-raising team to launch the Sue Ryder Home in the former Bishop’s Palace in Ely, after the closure of the Palace School.
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Following his early retirement, John was happy to devote his time and energy to good causes and within a year, he had been approached by the Liberal Democrat Party to stand as a district councillor for Fordham villages on East Cambs District Council. Although John had until then never been a member of a political party, he had always been interested in politics and agreed.
It was no surprise to those of us who knew John that in May 2002 he was elected chairman of the district council and was re-elected the following year. Highlights of his period of office include meeting several members of the Royal Family, including the Queen at her garden party, the opening of the Fordham by-pass and the tradition of throwing pennies at Reach Fair. John has also continued to serve the community,
and has been a member of the Diocesan Board of Education, thus using his knowledge of the education system to support local church of England primary and secondary schools. In addition to his work for the community, John has always enjoyed gardening, singing and travelling.
Less than two months ago, John started to experience some health problems. He walked into Addenbrooke’s Hospital at the beginning of March, suspecting he had suffered a mini-stroke. Many investigations followed and John, with his family, was advised a week later that the likelihood was that he was suffering from sporadic CJD. His rapid decline in health has been a shock to his family, friends and local people alike. John’s gratitude to those who were caring for him and his calm approach to his condition have been supported by his Christian faith. He died peacefully at home on Tuesday, April 5. He is survived by his wife, Judy, grown-up children Helen and Michael and four grandsons. The family is deeply grateful to the support received from friends and from Continuing Health Care, Marie Curie Nurses and the CJD Support Network. John’s funeral will take place on Monday, April 18 at 2pm in St Peter and St Mary Magdalene Church, Fordham. His children will be taking part in the London 10km run on July 10 to raise funds for CJD Support Network (www.cjdsupport.net)