The Wokingham Paper

Wokingham vicar dies aged 91

A WOKINGHAM Church of England vicar whose counselling skills touched thousands of peoples’ lives has died at the age of 91.

The Revd Canon Kenneth Humphreys, better known as Ken, first arrived in Wokingham in 1975 when he was appointed curate at All Saints’ Church while working at the No 5 Counselling Service in Reading, at a time when counselling was in its infancy.

Over many years he was part of the counselling team at Reading Festival.

He had arrived in the town from Compton, where he was vicar and then rector between 1970 and 1975.

It was while serving as vicar of Compton that his counselling work really took off and he was instrumental in setting up the Samaritans in Newbury.

When at Compton he and his wife Hilda filled the vicarage fostering babies and teenagers and two of these teenagers were Nigel and Nick, who to this day continue to be loving and important members of the family.

While at All Saints, he trained and counselled teachers and headteachers for Berkshire County Council. His counselling work did not stop there, for he helped counselling a large number of clergy in the Oxford Diocese.

In recognition of this work the Bishop of Oxford in 1991 appointed him an honorary canon of Christ Church, Oxford, an honour which he greatly valued.

In 1981, he was asked to take on a non-existing parish, St Mary and St John at California in England, which he built up over 14 years, where services were held in the hall of Gorse Ride School and because of his inspirational ministry the school had to be extended to enlarge the church.

While at California, Ken set up the training of a team of counsellors who went on to help a wide range of people, many being referred from the doctors’ surgery. From these times he maintained many close relationships.

One of his relaxations was gardening. He was passionate about the clematis and he was extremely knowledge on this plant and gave a number of talks to local groups in the Wokingham and Reading area in the 1980s, showing slides of the different varieties he had in the garden at the vicarage.

Born in Edmonton, he met Hilda through an operatic society, and they married when she was 18.

He did his National Service in the RAF. They started married life in Tottenham and Ken was a salesman for a large greenhouse business.

Then he joined Hoover as a servicing engineer and while visiting households they were asked to encourage housewives to buy more products.

Ken was so good at the selling side he was promoted to a salesman and eventually became area manager, moving from London to Marlow.

It was while living in the Buckinghamshire town that he decided to train for the priesthood.

His wife died nine years ago and, in recent years lived in Kennet Court, a sheltered housing complex in Wokingham, where he enthusiastically entered into all of the activities with gusto.

Although Ken retired in 1995, he continued to work well into his 80s, taking funerals and acting as an “ecclesiastical locum” for parishes which needed services to be taken.

He regularly took services at St Nicholas’s Church, held in Emmbrook village hall.

He died at Sunrise Living in Bagshot on Wednesday, April 15. A funeral service was held at Easthampstead Crematorium, where he himself had conducted services on hundreds of occasions, on Monday, May 4.

His daughter Paula Ashley said: “Looking through the huge number of cards and letters that I have received since my father passed away there are words and phrases that are repeated in so many of them — “Kind, caring, generous, special person,” “A real servant of God shown by his care and love of his fellows,” “A great salesman for God” and “He has left behind thousands of people who now have their lives removed of fear and shame.”

At least six men and women were encouraged by him to train for the priesthood.

A memorial service is planned at a later date. Contact A B Walker and Sons on 0118 957 3650 for more

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