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Ken Sorensen - Obituary

page created 19th July 2010, amended/updated Tuesday, 07 September 2010

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ken about 1952 source unknown

Ken Sorensen Ken Sorensen died on 30th May 2010 aged 85 at Lyncroft Care Home, Wisbech. Earlier in the month his health deteriorated and he was taken to hospital on the 12th, and transferred to Lyncroft shortly after.

Kenneth Earl Sorensen was born in Montreal, Canada, in January 1925, the third son of Danish immigrants. ike many Canadians he was fluent in both English and French, although his first language was that of his parents. After leaving Montreal High School at 16 he worked in a stock-brokers office, then in 1943 aged 18 he was enlisted into the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, serving for 3 years. I don’t know whether he had an interest in electrical engineering before entering the army, but he certainly did by the time he was discharged, for in 1947 he began a five-year course in that subject at McGill University in Montreal, gaining an honours degree in 1952, and being awarded the British Association Medal for top of a class of fifty.

After graduation Ken joined a privately-owned electricity supply company serving a large area of the Province of Quebec and in 1962 became an assistant Manager at the Company’s HQ in Montreal. At some stage in this period, I guess during the mid to late1950s, he met and married an English nurse, Elizabeth, and they had a daughter, Christine.

In 1965, Ken joined a consulting engineering company involved in projects throughout Canada, and also in South and Central America, the West Indies, Nigeria, Iran and Singapore. After five years he set up and managed a subsidiary company based in Singapore covering South East Asia and he travelled extensively throughout the Indian sub-continent and a good deal of Asia and the Far-East. Later, he moved his base to Indonesia, then to Australia. In 1983 he was promoted to Vice-president of the company, and moved back to Singapore.

When Ken retired in 1984 he and Elizabeth decided to settle near Elizabeth’s sister Joan Mills and her husband Arthur who were then living in Taymor Place, Welney. Ken had prospered from his business life and was able to buy a plot of land next to the Mills’ and have a spacious bungalow built to his specification. They named the new home "Labri", an anglicised version of the French for shelter,  "L'abri". Sadly it was not a shelter for Elzabeth for long as she died only a year or so after moving in, aged only 63, in June 1986. 

Within eighteen months Ken re-married, in November 1987 in Ealing, West London, to Arthur Mills’ sister, Pam, who died in the autumn of 1998. Christine meanwhile had moved to Harrowgate where she died, also prematurely, in about 2007, leaving Ken without relatives in the UK.

An early hobby of Ken’s was rally driving “back home” as Ken always referred to his native country. His passion for speed stayed with him well into his eighties as some of his passengers well remember. In England Ken was able to indulge in another passion, fly-fishing, and several friends and neighbours were regularly supplied with freshly caught trout prepared ready for the freezer. One of Ken’s favourite spots was Narborough Lakes, where he often fished accompanied by John Moss-Eccardt.

Ken was a regular at the Three Tuns where he would regale fellow drinkers for hours with tales of his travels and adventures in faraway places, whilst supping a pint and puffing a cigar. He would even recount these stories during quiz nights while his fellow team-mates valiantly peered through the haze of smoke trying to concentrate on answering the questions.

In 1991 Ken was co-opted onto the Welney Parish Council, and later became the Council’s representative on the Welney Playing Field Committee, and on the Board of Governors of William Marshall School. Ken quickly took a very active interest in the Council’s affairs, preparing annual budgets and chairing in 1993-94 the Wash Road Working Party, one of whose aims was to seek funding for a raised causeway from the EU’s 5b objective budget.

Despite his best efforts, and producing a comprehensive explanatory booklet, he was no more able to bring an end to the annual flooding than any Councillor before or since, and he turned his attention in 1994 to the street and footpath lighting in the Parish which he considered inadequate. Ken’s technical knowledge, business acumen and tenacity all helped him battle his way through the regulatory and bureaucratic processes which he seemed to relish tackling. He had a very retentive memory and I remember him explaining to his fellow Councillors in his slow Canadian drawl and without notes the many twists and turns in his latest endeavours in more detail than some of them probably wished to hear. The project increased the number of lamps from 18 to 30, and although there was some disquiet in parts of the parish about light-pollution, the scheme can be considered another of Ken’s successes.

Ken left the Council in 1995, but remained a School Governor. In 1996 he joined the Parish Appraisal group, writing the sections on housing and transport. In 1997-98 he was involved in the 150th anniversary celebrations for the Church and School, diligently going through the school records extracting important or interesting events and making many trips to reference libraries to trace the life of William Marshall and the establishment of his charity. His copious notes in neat longhand formed the basis of many of the information display posters.

Ken was not a religious person, but he supported our Church in many ways. In 1995 he became a key-holder and virtually every day for the next 12 years he unlocked and locked the Church, whatever the weather. He was also treasurer of the Church from 1999 to mid 2006, and when a new roof was needed he persuaded members of the Lamb & Flag quiz-teams to donate their winnings, raising some £1,300 for the roof funds. He also regularly helped out at the various fund raising events, and he always attended the Remembrance services, impeccably dressed as always.

In 2002, at the age of 77, Ken became a “silver-surfer” after persuading Ian Warrington to build him a computer so that he could shop on-line and keep in touch by e-mail with his relatives in Canada - a brother (who died in 2007) and various nieces and nephews.

In 2003 he became one of Welney’s representatives on the newly formed Upwell Health Centre Patient Participation Group, and was treasurer from 2004 until his retirement in 2009.

In later life he suffered increasingly from rheumatoid arthritis, and in late 2004 resorted to using a mobility scooter loaned by a neighbour, and was often seen whizzing around the village at speeds faster than appropriate. Even though he was often in considerable pain, he remained smartly dressed, retained a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips, and was still able tell a tale or two.

Ken chose to be cremated and to have a brief simple service conducted by a civil (i.e. not ordained) celebrant. The service was held at Mintlyn, Kings Lynn, on 15th June 2010 and his ashes interred in St Mary’s Churchyard, Welney, on 24th June, in the grave of his second wife Pam.

I am grateful to all those who, knowing Ken far more than I did, helped me put this obituary together, and will finish by quoting some of their comments. “I will always remember him laughing”; “generous, kind and thoughtful”; “a gentleman in every sense of the word and he will be missed”.

The photo at top of this column is from a report in the Wisbech Standard in 1994.

Peter Cox, 9th July 2010

ken and pam at their wedding Ken and Pam on their wedding day, 20th November 1987

Related pages on this website
The Wash Road Project 1994
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