TRIBUTES have poured in to much-loved Ashorne parish stalwart Cilla Cook who has died aged 75.
Embodying the old saying ‘If you want something doing, ask a busy person,’ Cilla, the daughter of a foundry worker, had been at the heart of village life for decades and churchwarden of St George’s in Newbold Pacey since 2005.
She also chaired the parish council, served as a district councillor and was a long-standing committee member of the local WI.
Born in 1944, Cilla grew up in Gaydon and went to Oken school in Warwick. An intelligent, perceptive girl, she deeply regretted having to leave school early through lack of funds and later took every opportunity to make up for the education she had missed.
Always a voracious reader with an astounding memory for offbeat facts, from history to horticulture, hymns to home-making, she excelled at quizzes and puzzles, and generally aced village quiz nights thanks to her incredible breadth of knowledge.
She loved attending historical talks and exhibitions and fulfilled a long-held ambition when she passed her History A level in later life. She also enjoyed researching her family history, poking around numerous local churchyards in search of ancestors.
She moved to Ashorne on her marriage to lorry-driver Dennis Cook in 1963 and, while raising their two daughters, Susan and Emma, created a glorious garden which was her pride and joy. She celebrated when she grew parsnips for the first time, something Dennis had never managed to do.
Keenly aware of how isolated people can be, even in small communities, she set up a monthly coffee morning in Ashorne in aid of Myton hospice, after Dennis’s death. She also founded what became the ‘Old Chucks’ group which still meets every month.
She regularly attended Ashorne’s weekly ”Craft and Chat’ group – jokily nicknamed ‘Stitch and Bitch’ – and was involved in making twiddle muffs and cannula mitts for dementia patients at Warwick Hospital, plus tiny clothes for premature baby units.
When the old wheelwright’s shop Chedham’s Yard in Wellesbourne was restored after years of neglect, she at once began volunteering, enhancing her love of local history and agriculture.
But Cilla will best be remembered as a loyal churchwoman, giving long hours of wonderfully dedicated service to local parishes, showing quiet kindness to everyone, leading by example and willing to sacrifice a lot for what she saw as a sacred trust.
She organised myriad activities from fetes, flower festivals and harvest suppers to anniversaries, First World War displays and the talks, carol services and summer lunches which attracted more people to St George’s.
She invariably cleaned the church within an inch of its life, delivered thousands of parish magazines and set out the altar immaculately for services. Her cookery and flower arranging skills were in demand at many community events, with light-as-a-feather coffee sponges her signature ‘bakes’.
Cilla relished being was part of the close-knit catering team which produced delicious spreads at the village hall for hundreds of wedding breakfasts and wakes in exchange for a donation to church funds.
She always decorated St George’s font exquisitely at Christmas and Easter in memory of Dennis. Appropriately, her sister-in-law Pam Cook herself an outstanding flower arranger, has just created a glorious display on the font in her memory.
Cilla was full of good ideas for fund-raising and gave successive vicars valuable guidance and help on church traditions and the arcane regulations governing burials, electoral rolls, ecclesiastical protocol and the dreaded ‘Faculty’, required from the diocese before the slightest piece of building work could take place at the church.
Although fiercely independent and a great perfectionist, she remained extraordinarily modest, keeping quiet about much of what she did rather than taking centre stage.
Even when increasingly frail in the final months of her life, she would bravely try to come and ‘do her bit’.
Her hundreds of friends and family members will say their farewells at her funeral on Friday January 24 at 12.30pm at St George’s, the church she served devotedly for more than 50 years.