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Issue 319 – A growing legacy from former mayor

FORMER mayor of Frome, Ken Secker, who died after a long illness in December, leaves a legacy of service to the town.

As well as serving as Mayor in 1984, Ken was a Mendip District Councillor and was responsible for signing the twinning of Frome with Murrhardt in Germany. He was a familiar face behind the counter in his business, Oatley Stores in Badcox, and was chairman of the retail section of the Chamber of Commerce
Amongst his leisure activities, Ken was president of Frome Selwood Horticultural Society, where he had a particular love of dahlias.
Jane Norris, press officer for the horticultural society writes about their friend, “Ken was a man of great stature. Big in character, body and spirit, he was, however, never grand and that is what made him such a welcome member to the many societies and committees he served.
“Ken was born in Isleworth, Middlesex in 1934 and lived with his grandparents after his father died when he was just 4 years old. An early ambition to become a newspaper reporter had Ken writing reviews for the Hayes News but a calling to join the Regular Army, where he served with the 15th/19th Hussars, brought not only travel to Germany, Malaya and Ceylon, but provided the education he craved and which formed the rest of his life in business and service to the community.
“Ken left the army to marry Pam, his long time beau, who would remain steadfast in support from the early days of accountancy training to the moves from Middlesex to High Wycombe to Maidenhead and then Somerset, to the eventual care that he would need.
“Together they shared a drive to get involved, seeing it as a duty that “if you could, you should give of your best “. This spirit manifested itself in so many ways when, on a mid-life change of direction, they settled in Frome, which was not their first choice of town, in 1974.
“Leaving a career in accounts in industry, most notably Universal Asbestos, Ken invested in a whim to be self employed, taking on the Oatley Stores in Badcox. Selling general groceries, wines, spirits and beers, they gained a reputation for good service and hard work. Some of the less literate customers would seek Ken’s counsel and literacy skills to help in letter writing, something which perhaps led Ken into a life of public service.
“Ken became chairman of the retail section of the Chamber of Commerce in the late 1970s and then Mayor of Frome in 1984-85, where his most notable achievement was to sign the twinning of Frome with Murrhardt, a link he and Pam maintained. He also served for two sessions on the Mendip District Council, and chaired the finance department.
“Ken’s first heart attack struck during this period, but after a period of convalescence he was back serving the community, but this time with a perspective that every day lived is a good day. Travels to America and his beloved France were curtailed by unpredictable health but retirement did not see too much restriction to activity, Ken being involved with his three children and grandchildren, his hobbies in music appreciation, (particularly jazz and opera), bowls, gardening and latterly genealogy and, of course, his beloved dahlias.
“Ken’s love of dahlias might be said to have grown from his first involvement with the Frome Selwood Horticultural Society in his mayoral year when asked to present prizes at the flower show. Having researched the society, as they did for every official duty, Ken and Pam were delighted to accept an invitation to join in 1986. Ken soon took over as show secretary in 1990 and then FSHS president in 2001, a position he proudly held until his passing.
“Although Ken’s strength was in accounts, where he provided calm guidance and a steadying hand to committee matters, he soon became a keen grower and shower. Mixing the wisdom of the late society garden guru Neville Bailey and many others, including fellow members of the North Somerset Dahlia Society, and adding a lot of reading, good plants and some degree of luck, (as Ken would modestly say), he won many prizes at the National Dahlia Society Shows. Gladiolis and asters were also favourites which they first grew in the large garden in Weymouth Road, from where they overlooked the park – his front garden, as Ken called it!
“Ken grew to be a cherished member of the FSHS. From his seedling days when he jokingly thought 4ft garden canes were planted to root, to the expertise he amassed over the years, it must surely be the case that Ken has left the society in good order. In his address as President at the Annual General Meeting’s Ken would summarise the year, giving credit to the hard work of the committee and members. Whether these would have been the words this year, but Pam says he considered the society to have strong roots, comparing it to a good, solid shrub, not leggy but well pruned and looked after, – infact, anything but a dahlia!!
“How fortunate Frome is that he and Pam settled here, and now, as his legacy, may the growing begin to win the prized Ken Secker Trophy for most points in dahlia championship, at the FSHS show in August this year!”