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Tributes paid to former Ashford Street Pastor Eric Cooney, of Apsley Street

A dedicated volunteer who gave support and comfort on the streets late at night has died aged 92.

Former street pastor Eric Cooney, of Apsley Street, Ashford, died last month at the William Harvey Hospital following a battle with oesophageal cancer.

Eric Cooney passed away last month
Eric Cooney passed away last month

The great-grandfather, who was a devoted Christian, volunteered his time at St Mary's Church in the town centre for 30 years.

He was among a group of Christians who formed the Ashford’s Street Pastors scheme in 2010 - caring for vulnerable people on the streets on Friday nights.

Born in Lewisham in 1926, Mr Cooney married twice throughout his lifetime and went on to have five children, including one stepson.

He was a reservist during the Second World War while training to be a civil engineer, then served in Egypt.

Later he worked on the construction of nuclear power stations, before retiring and working as a volunteer in community service.

St Mary’s church in Ashford town centre. Picture: Andy Jones
St Mary’s church in Ashford town centre. Picture: Andy Jones

Eric only retired from the Ashford Street Pastors aged 91.

His daughter Jo Wade, who lives in Cumbria, said: "He was quite a unique character, he had a strong faith and he wanted to put his faith into action.

"He retired 30 years ago and worked as a volunteer since - prior to that he worked all over the world.

"He had quite an interesting life.

"He was quite a lively member of the congregation and since he has passed a number of people have gone up to his colleague saying how much they admired him."

"He was a very faithful witness to the church, he attended St Mary's for 30 years and he will be sorely missed"...Sue Sawyer

During his time as a street pastor, he supported 1,766 people and removed more than 5,000 potentially dangerous bottles and glasses from the streets of Ashford.

He stepped down from the role last year as he found it too cold to continue with patrols - but still remained committed to serving the town during the day.

Sue Sawyer, local warden at Ashford St Mary's, has paid tribute to her "lovely, warm and generous" colleague.

"Eric was very impatient, he liked to get things done and he wanted action", she said.

"He was a volunteer for a number of charities.

The launch of the Ashford Street Pastor scheme in 2010. Picture: Gary Browne
The launch of the Ashford Street Pastor scheme in 2010. Picture: Gary Browne

"He used to driver elderly people to various appointments and would read local and national newspapers for people who were blind.

"He and his family were very keen cyclists.

"He used to cycle 10 miles a day until more recently when he cut it down to seven.

"Eric had a habit of breaking the rules. I think he forgave me for always telling him to put on his helmet.

"He was a very faithful witness to the church, he attended St Mary's for 30 years and he will be sorely missed."

Friends and colleagues are invited to attend a service at the town centre church from 1.30pm tomorrow to celebrate Eric's life.

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