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Jeremiah Stokes 1924 -2007

(6 April 2007) 

Brilliant TV 


Jeremiah Stokes the Cookham Cobbler had as many different names as customers! Jeremiah, Gerry, Dermott, Desmond, Des, or Dezzie, had 6 sisters and was born in Waterford Eire.
 
He began work on the railways, shunting trucks in Eastbourne on the South Coast. Transport was clearly in his blood because he was for many years a conductor on the Thames Valley buses where he met his wife Elsie Joyce.
 
"He used to hold the Reading bus up for me at Littlewick Green when I worked in Slough"  said Joyce, describing their busman's courtship.
 
Among his other jobs was a dishwasher at Odney Club and an insurance salesman for the United Friendly Society, a job he continued in his spare time up until 1991. But in 1962 he found his dream job. Taught to mend shoes by his father, Jeremiah bought the old wooden shop by the side of Cookham level crossing from the Spicer family and started repairing shoes.  The shop has changed little in 45 years. It has no running water and no loo (as the land was leased from the railways he had a key to Cookham station's bathroom facilites).  4 years ago vandals smashed his front window and kind hearted villagers grouped together to give the shop a facelift. A new window from Curly Carver, new frame from Cookham builders Borst on the Lower road, a lick of paint from local Builder Andrew Postlethwaite and a proper new sign from Fine Signs gave the Reliance Shoe repairs the recognition many locals felt Mr Stokes deserved.

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"I don't want to retire" explained Gerry many times "I intend to carry on working until the the day I die. What else is there to do?"  And he did.
 
In 2002 his portrait was painted by Timmy Mallett for the series of 50 portraits of Cookham people for the Queeen's Jubilee.
 
"Jeremiah was the first Cookham portrait I chose to do" said Timmy  "and he was such a pleasure to paint it gave me the inspiration to continue my series from the original plan of 2 or 3 to 50!"  You can see the portrait here
 

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Jeremiah's advert for his shoe shop which he voiced himself was voted the most popular on Cookham Summer FM in 2006. Click here to hear it.
 
A quiet man, Jeremiah, had a keenness for football (Arsenal was his team) and the horses. He and Joyce went once to Newbury races on the train and he always enjoyed a daily flutter.
 
As a young man Jeremiah enjoyed motorbikes and took his young family to Eire by motorbike, sidecar and boat. It took two days to travel to Fishguard along the old A40 "but the sidecar was comfortable" said Joyce "Our young son Neil sat in the front seat, I was in the back seat and whatever luggage we had, including the tent fitted in just behind!"

Jeremiah and Joyce were married 56 years. They experienced tragedy early in their marriage when their little boy Christopher was killed in a car crash aged 4 and half at Knowle Hill. Not on the busy A4 but on the quietest road in Berkshire up to Warren Row on a snowy day in the 1950s.
 
Jeremiah passed away at Wexham Park hospital on Friday March 30th and is mourned by his wife Elsie Joyce, son Neil, grandchildren Jordan and Eleanor and all of Cookham who remember his little shop with great affection.
 
The funeral is at Slough Crematorium on Tuesday April 17th 12:30pm.

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