Godmanchester Cambridgeshire Community Association Online

Frederick Walter Cooper - Fred 'The Barber'

Fred was born in Hackney in London on 6 June 1947 and was the second of five children born to parents Truda and Wally Cooper.  Fred spent his youngest years growing up in London with his older brother Ted and younger siblings Ken, Kath and Trudie.  As their father was a policeman, his work brought the family to live first in the Ely area and then to Whittlesey where they moved when Fred was about 7 years old.  As he grew up Fred enjoyed a very good and happy home life, although his older brother Ted was tragically killed in a road accident on Boxing Day when he was just a teenager.


As he grew up Fred was well cared for by his lovely mum and he attended the Sir Harry Smith School in Whittlesey.  It would be true to say that Fred was never very keen on school but, had many friends there and was always a sociable and popular lad.


After leaving school Fred went to college to train as a barber and then started cutting hair in a shop in Whittlesey.  He was still only 19 years old when he married his first wife Barbara in 1966 and in due course he was delighted to become a dad to Tracy and Mark.   With a family to provide for, Fred went to work for a little while at Perkins Engines in Peterborough, but quickly moved on to become a milkman which was work that was far more suited to his sociable and out-going nature.  Fred didn't mind the early starts but enjoyed chatting with his customers and would often stop and have a cup of tea with one of them when he had time.  As the children got a little older they liked to go with Fred on his round, but they clearly remember how cold it could be on winter mornings.


Sadly, Fred's marriage to Barbara was not long-lasting and in the mid 70's they went their separate ways.  It was at the Ivy Leaf Club that Fred then bumped into Wendy on a Bank Holiday Weekend in 1979.  Fred was there with Tracy and Mark, and Wendy had been persuaded to come along by her mum and dad, with her children Darren and Caris.  Wendy and Fred had known each other since their school days and as their children went to the same school they all got along famously.  Fred invited Wendy and her children to join him and his children on a day out to Peakirk, but as the day turned out to be a wet one they all went to see Watership Down at the Cinema instead.  The children all got on so well together that Fred and Wendy soon married only about 6 months after they first got together.  The Co-op then asked Fred to move to become a milk round supervisor in the Huntingdon area and so they moved into their present home on Tudor Road in October 1979.


As the children grew Fred worked very hard to provide for his family and was always there for them all. He never asked for much for himself but was happy to take care of all the DIY and home maintenance jobs as well as providing a taxi service for the children as they hit their teenage years.  He may have moaned about things like fixing Wendy's knitting machine or fetching Caris home at 1 o'clock in the morning, but he always did it, and was a dependable and very kind family man.


In the mid-80's Fred decided to leave the Co-op and returned to his first trade of hairdressing.  He opened a shop in Godmanchester and for the last 30 years or so has enjoyed cutting hair and enjoying a lot of fun and banter with his customers.  Fred had a very ready wit, but at times could be very rude to his customers. They grew to know that it was all meant in fun and Wendy has had so many cards from people saying how much they appreciated the laughs that Fred gave them - as much as they appreciated the haircuts. Fred became a very well-known character in Godmanchester life and loved being in the right place to hear all the village news and gossip.


As the family grew, Fred was thrilled to become a grandad to Abigail, Jack, Eleanor, Maya, Joseph, Matthew, twins Hannah & Jemma, Finlay and Isobel.  He loved all the children dearly and when they were little he would be down on the floor giving them a rough and tumble and joining in with their games.  As the children got a bit older Fred loved to tease and torment them, but always brought a lot of fun and laughter to family life.  He always loved seeing family members and spending time in their company and this family remained a source of real pride and great joy in his life.


About ten years ago Fred suffered a heart attack.  He had a stent fitted and after a short period of recovery was soon back at work.  Although he continued in his shop past the usual retirement age, Fred had no desire to stop work.  He liked being busy and useful and enjoyed all the chat and banter that he had with his customers. It was a good social life as well as a job.  He and Wendy did enjoy going on some very memorable holidays and in recent years they bought a campervan so that they could fully explore the British Isles.


A couple of years ago Fred started to experience breathing problems which gradually worsened until he had a triple bypass in October 2017.  Once again, he recovered remarkably well and after only about 8 weeks of recuperation he returned to work, although he did reduce his hours to 4 days a week.  He continued to be a well-known figure cycling around the village and was delighted to receive the all clear from Papworth Hospital in February 2018.


It was, therefore, a huge shock for everyone when Fred suffered a major cardiac arrest at home, after a happy normal Saturday and a good meal with Wendy.  Despite receiving immediate first aid from Wendy and Darren, and first-class assistance from the emergency services, this proved to be one battle that Fred would not win and he sadly passed away on 13 March 2018.  Whilst I know that those closest to Fred are still coming to terms with his sudden and unexpected death, they have told me they are trying to draw some comfort from knowing that Fred's suffering was not prolonged, and that to die with the absolute minimum of fuss would have been exactly the way that Fred would have chosen for himself.


Vanessa Corbishley


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