“One in a million” family man dies aged 80

Date: Monday 11th June 2018
Ken Whitehead with one of his horses, with which he enjoyed showring success.
Ken Whitehead with one of his horses, with which he enjoyed showring success.

A FAMILY has paid tribute to “one in a million” family man Kenneth Whitehead, who has died, aged 80.

Born to Mavis and Thomas, Ken had one brother, the late Terence, of Penrith. The brothers overcame a difficult childhood following the death of their mother at a young age.

Ken attended school at Newbiggin and, on leaving education, went into farm work. He was first employed by Jimmy Turnbull before working at a farm in Catterlen and then went on to work for the Harrison family at Inglewood.

Ken met his future wife, Mavis Jackson, at Newton Reigny. He had asked her if she would like a ride on his motorbike, but it was two years until they met again.

They courted for three years and married at St Andrew’s Church, Penrith, on 3rd March, 1961.

Their first home together was at Inglewood before the couple moved into Penrith. They had three daughters, Lynne Thistlethwaite, Jill Whitehead and Anne Willacy, all of Penrith.

Following his move from farm work, Ken bought a milk round business, which he ran from home. He sold everything from food to newspapers and magazines and the business was successful.

He had the business for eight years before selling it on and buying a newsagents at Burrowgate, Penrith, which became K and M Whitehead newsagents, which he owned for 13 years. During this time, he also worked for Althams in the town.

Ken took part in judo and progressed to black belt. He ran his own judo school in the town and, during this time, met Eddie Barton. They set up a company which supplied specialist laboratory equipment, known as KLEG — work which took him to Ghana. In 1980, Ken and Eddie became directors of Penrith Football Club during one of its most successful periods.

Friends recalled how he would make everyone laugh and his family said he was always smiling. Ken also became a freemason and joined the Beacon Lodge of Penrith, of which he was part for a number of years.

In 1982, he bought two Morgan horses, which were flown from New York to London and he collected from the airport. He showed the horses across the country, including at the Horse of the Year Show at Wembley. Ken also owned some property in Penrith, including the building where the Warehouse nightclub now stands.

Ken next went to work for the Milk Marketing Board for a while and then was a school caretaker at Ullswater Community College, Penrith.

He then worked in security at Aldi and then at Center Parcs, Whinfell Forest, where he was put in charge of the golf range. Another of Ken’s pastimes was keeping and racing whippets. He also travelled to many countries across the world with Mavis.

Despite having an active social and work life, Ken’s family came first and his daughters describe him as the “best father anybody could wish to have”.

They say he was a kind-hearted man who never put anybody down and saw the good in everyone, going out of his way to help and advise many people. He was also a father figure to his granddaughter, Leigh Cornwell, and gave her away at her wedding.

Ken is survived by his wife and daughters; grandchildren Poppy Sant Whitehead, Linden Thistlethwaite, Irvine Willacy, Ewan Willacy, Khy Tallentire; and great-granddaughter Esmee Cornwell.

Ken’s funeral was held yesterday at St Andrew’s Church, Penrith.