Obituary: Remembering Leighton-Linslade’s Ken Sharer

Ken Sharer
Ken Sharer

Family and colleagues are paying tribute to former Leighton Buzzard town, district and county councillor, Ken Sharer, as they remember his passion for serving the community.

Ken passed away recently age 92, known for his love of the RAF and his work for the Dunstable and District Disabled Society, the charity he chose to support when he was South Beds District Council chairman.

He originally moved from London to Leighton Buzzard in 1972, where he made a name for himself serving the town, described by fellow politician Ray Berry as a “staunch councillor” and someone who would “do the right thing for the people”.

Ken’s son, Neill, who now lives in Australia, remembered: “We moved to Linslade in 1972 and Dad loved the area .

“He cared about the people, and he cared about Leighton-Linslade as well. He became a town councillor, he really enjoyed that and then went into the district council where he became the chairman.

“I know he did not make too many friends in council because he was always up front and to the point with his opinions and ideas. He attended many committee meetings, and Mum was left behind a lot of the time.

“Dad loved his kids, Marion, Ursula and me, and whenever I called him I knew I would be speaking to him for about an hour while he told me all the news!”

Ken was born to parents Rebecca and Joseph in 1925 and grew up in the East End of London along with his brother and sister, Sid and Nancy.

He left school unqualified, but World War Two soon pushed Ken to the frontline of one of the worst tragedies on home soil.

Neill said: “My father was a first aid volunteer and was at the scene of the Bethnal Green underground disaster when many people died during a stampede; the air raid sirens did not go off early enough and bombs were dropping as people were rushing to the underground.

“Dad spent a while in a convalescent home, and the Queen Mother visited the home when he was there.

“Towards the end of the war, he went into the RAF working on Lancaster bomber frames.”

This job would set the tone of Ken’s career, and after he left the RAF, he started work as a toolmaker. Realising he needed to get qualified, he went to night school at Woolwich Polytechnic and became a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, later employed by GEC in the nuclear industry, completing projects in the Middle East.

Back home, Ken and his wife, Barbara, had three children. Marion was the oldest, and after suffering a miscarriage the couple were told not to have more children, so they adopted Ken’s second daughter, Ursula.However, Neill was born not long after, completing the happy family of five!

He fondly remembers: “Dad was a Tottenham supporter, he would not eat the Chelsea Buns that I made when I was at Barnfield College - he renamed them ‘Spurs Buns’ so he could enjoy them.

“And he was perhaps the world record holder for sulking! He bought a brand new Food Cortina II in the 1960s and Mum reversed her Ford Anglia out of the garage and promptly drove down the side of his new car, leaving a dent from just behind the front wheel to the end of the car.

“Mum came in and told him that she had hit his car, to which Dad said ‘I’ll Kill You!’. Well, Mum lived to 91 so that didn’t happen!

“He also loved his German Shepherd, called Kumpel. She was sick quite often and had fits and he would stay up all night stroking her and looking after her until she was better.”

When the family moved to the town in 1972, Ken worked for Jervis B Webb, Luton, who made conveyor systems, and Ken did the designs for companies such as Vauxhall, Ford and British Leyland.

“Every Ford Fiesta that rolled off the Dagenham production line was built on a conveyor designed and installed by Dad!” laughed Neill.

It would take a lot to persuade Ken that the home counties were not the best place to live, but after Neill emigrated to Australia and Ken and Barbara made a trip to visit, Ken did admit that he wished he’d had the opportunity 30 years go - he’d fallen in love with Oz!

Luckily, Neill works in the cruise industry, so the couple enjoyed several voyages!

Neill can recall many things about his father - his joy at watching Monty Python, passion for gliding, gardening, and his inability to use modern technology, but the strongest and most important memory, is the love he had for Barbara.

Neill said: “Dad had a heart of gold; he worshipped his Mum and his wife. When Mum passed away, a huge chunk of his life went with her and we all knew it was only a matter of time before he went as well.

“When Mum died 15 months ago, I spent about 10 days with him, and we did not watch TV - we talked and talked and drank copious amounts of tea! I learned more about my Mum and Dad in those 10 days than I had ever known in my whole life, and I am so glad.

“I always knew that he supported me in everything I did. Now it is me that has to take on that mantle. By God, he had big shoes to fill, and I am only fitting into the big toe!!”

> Ken was a member of the Town Council during the 1990s. He was a Liberal Democrat but switched to Independent in 2003. He was elected as Conservative in 2003, serving to 2015.

Ken was also chairman of South Beds District Council from 1999 to 2000. He served on the district council until the creation of Central Bedfordshire Council, when he was elected for a two year term 2009 to 2011, then stood down on boundary changes (2011).

He had also served on Beds County Council between 1997-2001 as a Liberal Democrat.

Town Cllr Karen Cursons also wished to pay tribute.

She said: “Ken served for many years on the council and worked passionately for our town. It was him who inspired me to become a councillor and took me under his wing.

“He gave me many words of wisdom including that you are serving the residents and town. Ken was very vocal and said it as it is, but he was also kind and gracious man who will be sadly missed.”

Andrew Selous MP, said: “Ken was a big-hearted man in every sense. He had a booming voice and cared passionately about older people and the disabled in particular.

“I remember his enthusiastic chairmanship of Dunstable and District Disabled Sports and the great enthusiasm that he brought to that role. He always did what he thought was right for the community and will be much missed.”

Ken’s funeral took place at Oak Chapel, Crownhill Cremation, Milton Keynes today.