Ken Vale: Tributes paid to former Stevenage mayor and football chairman

Ken Vale as chairman of Stevenage Borough FC. Picture: Comet archive

Ken Vale as chairman of Stevenage Borough FC. Picture: Comet archive - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to Stevenage “founding father” Ken Vale, who has died at the age of 87.

Ken was mayor of Stevenage in 1980/81 and 1997/98, during a 39-year spell as a member of the borough council – following which councillors made him an honorary alderman in 2007.

He was also chairman of Stevenage Borough FC – today Stevenage FC – from 1987 to 1994.

Following his death on Friday night, Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor summed him up as a “founding father” of the New Town.

She said: “We were all so sad to hear that one of our ‘founding fathers’ in Stevenage, Alderman Ken Vale, died on Friday evening last week aged 87.

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“Ken’s passion for Stevenage and service to our town will always be remembered. He was instrumental in building the sporting and cultural life of our town and as a leading councillor made a huge contribution to the town’s leisure services. He also had a long association with Stevenage Borough Football Club.

“Ken’s role as a local councillor in Chells was legendary and where he truly excelled. He could not go outside of his front door without stopping to chat to a constituent and a visit to the shops at The Glebe was like a roving street surgery.

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“He also took many new councillors under his wing as their mentor. I grew up in Chells and some of my earliest political memories are of delivering leaflets for Ken with my dad.

“Ken was a proud Yorkshireman and Sheffield Wednesday supporter. His wonderful, dry sense of humour and no-nonsense approach to life gave him an ability to make friends wherever he went.

“My thoughts are with his widow Betty who has been such a tower of strength to Ken in recent years and with his four children, grandchildren, family and friends. He will be sadly missed. Rest in peace dear Ken.”

Ken, who was originally from Sheffield, worked on the railways and completed two years of national service in the Royal Air Force between 1949 and 1951.

He came to Stevenage after being transferred to the British Rail accounts office in the town. He became a borough councillor in 1964, representing Chells – and, apart from a three-year break from 1968 to 1971, remained in post until he retired in 2007.

Councillor Robin Parker, the Stevenage Liberal Democrat group leader, first encountered Ken as a teenager when he was getting involved in local politics – and got to know him better from 1982 as a political opponent in Chells.

“I always found him knowledgeable and well-informed about local issues and problems,” said Mr Parker.

“Ken was polite and direct when tackling council affairs, and I thought that he handled local residents fairly and clearly at the various neighbourhood forums over the years.

“He had a quiet and persuasive sense of humour. My thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

Ken’s roles at the borough council included chairing the housing management sub-committee while many homes were being built in the 1970s.

He always served on leisure committees, and dedicated much spare time to the Timebridge Community Centre in Mobbsbury Way and championing all those involved in sport. While backing Stevenage, he also remained a firm fan of Sheffield Wednesday.

A Stevenage FC spokesman said all at the club were deeply saddened, and would be holding a minute’s applause in memory of Ken before Saturday’s match against Morecambe. Ken’s family have been invited to the game.

Ken’s contributions as Boro chairman included appointing manager Paul Fairclough – a schoolteacher recruited from Hertford Town in 1990, who led Stevenage from obscurity to the top of the non-League game.

In 2007, Ken was one of the first two honorary aldermen appointed in Stevenage, alongside Brian Hall – who led the borough council from 1971 to 2006, and cited Ken as a “magnificent supporter all the way through”.

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