Tributes paid to ‘true son of Barnstaple’ Keith Abraham

Keith Abraham with the Shand Mason Barnstaple steam fire engine that he bought for his home town. Pi

Keith Abraham with the Shand Mason Barnstaple steam fire engine that he bought for his home town. Picture: MBND - Credit: Archant

North Devon is mourning the loss of a generous benefactor who left the region a far better place than when he arrived.

Keith Abraham died at the weekend aged 92 but he left a huge mark on many charities, organisations, clubs and good causes with donations totalling millions of pounds.

Mr Abraham was a key patron of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon as well as North Devon Hospice and Children’s Hospice South West plus numerous sports clubs including Barnstaple and Bideford rugby clubs, Barnstaple Cricket Club and Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club.

Tributes have been pouring in for a man who became dedicated to his adopted home of Barnstaple after moving there with his late wife Freda, a local girl.

The couple took on failing automotive parts distributor LH Codd and it became massively successful – having no children, they decided to give a third of profits to charity, later setting up the Keith and Freda Abraham Charitable Trust.

Paying tribute to a staunch patron who supported the museum, including its new Long Bridge Wing and purchasing the town’s old steam fire engine, curator Alison Mills said Mr Abraham saw himself as following in the footsteps of its founder, William Frederick Rock

She said: “He was such a generous man. He loved Barnstaple, he loved his town and he always wanted to give back.

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“We waited 15 years for the fire engine and he got it back for us – he was passionate about that and doing something for the people of Barnstaple. He was a worthy successor to William Frederick Rock.

“His wish was to be remembered and hopefully we can help him with that.”

His charitable legacy is huge and his trust supported many good causes.

Children’s Hospice co-founder Eddie Farwell said he was ‘a true son of Barnstaple: “He was very fond of Little Bridge House and supported us since the early days and throughout the last 30 years.

“Everyone at the charity was saddened to hear of Keith’s passing and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

He was a big sports fan and donations included purchasing the two racing boats owned by Barnstaple Gig Club. In a statement the club said he was a ‘true local hero’, adding: “We are all greatly saddened to hear of the passing of our long standing club president, Keith Abraham.

“Keith was instrumental in helping our club as well as supporting many other clubs and organisations across North Devon.

“Keith was a big supporter of Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club and his generosity allowed our club to become what we are now.”

Stephen Roberts, chief executive of North Devon Hospice, said: “We are greatly saddened to hear about the death of Keith Abraham. As one of our vice presidents Keith was a great supporter and ambassador for North Devon Hospice.

“However, what an impact he has had on so many across North Devon. Keith’s passion and dedication to Barnstaple and so many great causes was simply amazing. Whilst our thoughts and prayers are with all of his friends and family, they should be very proud of all that he has achieved.”

Keith Noel Abraham was born on August 8, 1928, near Southampton, the son of a market gardener.

He was not quite old enough to serve in World War Two but did National Service and learned the storeman’s trade, going into the car parts industry after he left the army.

After meeting Freda and moving to North Devon, he built up relationships with countless businesses, developing a reputation for excellent service and keeping his word, and Freda kept tight control of the company’s books!

Details of Mr Abraham’s funeral have not yet been announced, although the service would of course not be public due to the pandemic.

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