Michael Akehurst – an appreciation

Michael was once described as “a gentle giant”. He always seemed to represent the true qualities of being Quaker, with his charitable work, his empathy and his easy going nature. Always warm and welcoming, he conveyed a strong emotional intelligence.

Born in Harrogate in 1945, Michael moved to Barnsley at the age of four, when he was adopted by Rev. David and Grace Akehurst. The family moved to Hartlepool where he spent his teenage years and attended West Hartlepool Grammar School. At Durham University he graduated in Maths and Philosophy and in 1967 married Tricia in Sunderland.

His first employment was as a school teacher in south London. There, he became much involved in setting-up and running youth clubs. Michael and Tricia’s two sons, Richard and Andrew were both born in London, but in the late 1970s the family moved to Suffolk, where Michael started working for the National Association of Youth Clubs and where his family was completed with the birth of Susanna.

It was during this time that Michael and Tricia started attending Bury St Edmunds Quaker Meeting and in 1980 they both became Members.

When the family moved to Bury St Edmunds from the village of Bardwell in the late 1980s Michael taught maths at an upper school for a time and then took on work in the field of drugs education. At about this time, he became a volunteer with the local Samaritans and subsequently stayed involved with them for many years.

As a Quaker, Michael undertook many different roles, including those of Clerk, Treasurer and Overseer. Pastoral care was his forte and, in particular, he had a natural understanding of and empathy with young people, as his career path shows. He is remembered for the sensitive and imaginative way in which he helped plan visits to our Meeting House by local schools and Cub packs. And he was so proud of his own children and grandchildren.

Michael’s final job before retiring involved being an Area Advisory Teacher for children with visual impairment. A teacher has commented that his visits to her school were a little ocean of calm, and that he always remembered the students he cared for years later. He developed a system to encourage cortical vision in profoundly disabled children and, supported by a Churchill Scholarship, he travelled to Canada and the USA to demonstrate this system.

Retirement gave Michael time to pursue his love of art and music. As well as exhibiting at Felixstowe Art Gallery, he was part of the Bury Sketchers Group. His love of singing was reflected in his long membership of the St Edmundsbury Male Voice Choir, for whom he organised a very successful tour to the Baltic countries. Michael had an adventurous spirit and over the years he and Tricia travelled widely, being fascinated by different countries and ways of life.

During the year before he died, Michael joined with Tricia in arranging caravan holidays in Felixstowe, over a period of six weeks, for some of the families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in London. It was an ambitious and humane response to that tragedy and was an inspiration to many of us.

Michael was a modest man whose whole life involved support for others in one way or another. Perhaps he can be summed up in the words of a Friend who simply said “He was a kind and caring man who always had time for others”, or, to quote one young Friend, “Michael was a very kind old man, with a nice smile”.

Minute of Appreciation for Michael Akehurst 1945 – 2018