Ken Sears (1927-2014) - An Appreciation

Ken Sears_and_medalEvery individual is unique, but some are uniquer than others!  And Ken Sears, who died on 9th November 2014, was certainly one of those.

Born in Sheerness, he lived in the same house in Winstanley Road all his life.   After attending the Broadway Primary School, he went to Borden until he was 18 and thence to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he graduated in Modern History.  He  spent a further year in Government Studies at Mansfield College before being employed initially by Coventry Council and then by the City and Guilds Institute, where he worked as an Education Officer for the rest of his careeer.  So much for the bare facts.  What made Ken so remarkable, however, was his huge range of interests and 'extramural' activities, of which three in particular stand out.  

Not necessarily in order of importance, the first was Oxford itself.  He relished University life and enjoyed a lifelong love affair with academia, which manifested itself in all sorts of ways.  He was a familiar figure at Lincoln, where he frequently excercised his right as an M.A. to dine at High Table once a term; he was Treasurer of the Mansfield Alumni Association for many years, and a member of the Adam von Trott Committee; and he had a very large collection of books, including over 200 history books.  He was a keen collector of other items too, including old coins, and he had the pin worn by Captain Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic Expedition. 

Ken always kept a schoolboy diary and, at the time it happened, he noted the attempt on Hitler's life in 1944.  When he went to Mansfield, he found that one of the architects of the plot, Adam von Trott, had been a student there before the War, so after a great deal of painstaking research (out of which developed an enduring friendship with the von Trott family), he wrote and had published a book about him entitled “Opposing Hitler”. 

His second great passion in life arose from his acute awareness of the self-sacrifice of those who died for this Country on active service, especially in WW1.  When he was quite young, he discovered that his great, great grandfather had fought at Waterloo (he even had his Waterloo Medal, shown in the picture above), and perhaps it was this, plus the fact that his father fought at Ypres, which sparked his original interest.  He became a Trustee of the Friends of St. George's Memorial Chapel at Ypres, led many pilgrimages there, and for several years edited the Friends' monthly newsletter.  He also sought out and laid wreaths on the graves of many Old Bordenians killed in Belgium and France in both World Wars. 

The third big motivation in Ken's life was his religion.  Like his father, he was a committed member of the Congregational Church (later to become part of the United Reform Church) where he was a lay preacher.  He demonstrated his beliefs not just in worship but in many practical ways.  For instance, you might find him in the kitchens of the American Church in London, helping to prepare meals for the homeless.  He also supported a hospital in India, run by the London Missionary Society. 

The list of Ken's interests and involvements is almost endless.  Surprisingly for someone who was not the 'athletic type' at School, he was a keen Member of Kent County Cricket Club, and sat regularly at Canterbury on a bench which he donated in memory of his parents ; his interest in Parliamentary affairs was evidenced by his membership of the Hansard Society; for 35 years, he was a Governor of St George's Primary School in Sheerness; and last but not least, he was a Member of the Committee of the O.B.A. for almost 60 years. 

As unusual as his range of activities were the character and idiosyncracies of the man himself.  He spurned many of the technological advances of the 20th and 21st Centuries.  Everything he wrote was in his own neat handwriting, not from a typewriter or computer keyboard; he had a black-and-white TV set long after they became museum pieces; his telephone had a dial, not push-buttons and he had the same car for the best part of 50 years!  Above everything else, Ken had a prodigious memory.  He never seemed to forget a name, a place, an event or even the remarks of others, which he could recall verbatim. 

This may help to explain why conversations with him were so extraordinary and often such lengthy affairs.  As one of the eulogists at his funeral said, you didn't start up a conversation with Ken if you were in a hurry!  He took you on a journey from A to B via C to Z – interspersing his remarks with all kinds of excursions down interesting side-roads, rather like Ronnie Corbett's monologue stories.  But he always found his way back to the main highway again! 

Ken was unfailingly kind, gentle and patient.  When did anyone ever hear him lose his temper or see him act discourteously?  I knew Ken for 79 years – from the Broadway School, then at Borden (including evacuation to S. Wales) right up to and including Lincoln College and then on the OBA Committee for the past 25 years.  Like everyone else who knew him, I shall miss him greatly. 

Ken Sears

Graham Barnes