Youth workers dies

DEVOTED church worker and youth leader Ken Wootten collapsed and died at his home last Friday.

Thursday, 21st March 2002, 5:55 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:41 pm

His death at the age of 54 has stunned and saddened friends in the many spheres of local life in which he was involved.

He leaves a widow, Gillian, daughter Colette and son Julian.

A service of thanksgiving and thanksgiving for Ken Wootten's life will be held at Beulah Baptist Church today at 1pm following private burial.

For 27 years Ken had organised a parade and service which was close to his heart on two counts - young people and the needs of ex-servicemen and women.

A sniper's bullet in Belfast in 1971 ended the service career of Ken's brother, Colin. At age of 18 he was confined to a wheelchair and a life in a Star and Garter Home.

Leaders of Bexhill branch of the Royal British Legion this week paid tribute to Ken for the way he brought the town's uniformed youth organisations and its ex-service veterans together each year.

Ken's concept of the annual Remembrance Sunday service at the seafront war memorial was that it should not only honour those who gave their lives but give each successive generation a sense of involvement.

Legion branch secretary Ernie Randall said: "Ken had tremendous rapport with all the youth groups in the town.

"He arranged the band, he organised the bugler, the priest, the organ - everything."

Julian immediately pledged to continue to organise the parade and service in his father's memory.

Ken was born in Littlehampton. He and Gillian were married at Littlehampton Baptist Church.

A career with WH Smith which had its origins as a newspaper delivery boy in Littlehampton in 1962 brought Ken to Bexhill in 1974 as branch manager. He was manager of Wigfalls store in Bexhill for 18 months before he and Gill became joint wardens in 1980 of Lake House, the Girls' Brigade national training and holiday centre in Collington Lane West.

After Lake House closed in 1990 Ken and Gill became custodians of The Coach House, the Old Town centre of the Christian organisation the Servants With Jesus.

He was a High School governor until he joined the High School six years ago as a pupil supervisor, later becoming examinations secretary.

For 14 years he was young people's leader at Beulah Baptist Church. He served on the management committee of Bexhill Youth Centre and as chairman of Bexhill Youth Services was instrumental with the late Gerry Waters in setting up The Grid young people's advice centre.

He was a founder of the Friends of St Jude's Women's Refuge.

He was elder for evangelism at Beulah until becoming church secretary.

His service to Beulah greatly contributed to the church's strengths, says the senior minister, the Rev Neville Barnett.

"Everything he was arose from his deep Christian faith. People at Sunday's services were absolutely stunned when I broke the news."

Mr Wootten was invaluable for his youth work. He was church secretary for well over 10 years and also served for a year as chairman of the Bexhill Council of Churches in the 80s.

"He also was a very keen to help young people and was involved with the High School on the administration side and as examination secretary, and within the community at The Grid youth drop-in centre."

Cllr Brian Kentfield, chairman of the High School's governors, writes: "Bexhill High School is mourning the loss of Ken Wootten.

"As a Governor, he contributed fully to that group's work over the years he served. He worked with local churches to present a programme of collective worship; organising the school services and most recently coordinating public examinations.

"He was a driving force behind the scenes in raising the money necessary to build our school in Uganda.

"Our thoughts are with his wife, Gill, and his children Colette and Julian, all members of our school community."

Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to Towner's undertakers. The money will be split between the Star and Garter Homes, youth ministry at Beulah Baptist Church and a new Best Achiever award for Bexhill High School.