One of the Daily Express’s most highly regarded former journalists, Harry Cooke, has died suddenly from a heart attack, aged 63.
His unexpected passing came as a shock to family, friends and former colleagues, who fondly regarded him as always being in “cantankerous rude health”.
A died-in-the-wool Yorkshireman who could be characteristically both bluff and charming in equal measure, he spent his entire working life in the North, where he had his roots.
From enthusiastic beginnings as a reporter on the South Yorkshire Times, Harry’s name became known on national newspapers while working as the freelance Cooke of Penistone, after the South Yorkshire steel and market town where he lived.
By 1974 his talents had been noticed by the Daily Express and he was snapped up to join the staff at the paper’s Manchester office by the then Northern news editor, Stanley Blenkinsop.
Blenkinsop recently recalled that when he retired in 1986 he was asked to nominate his replacement – and put forward Harry’s name “without a moment’s hesitation”.
“Harry was an Express reporter of the old school, and I admired and respected him greatly,” said Blenkinsop.
“He was a typical blunt-speaking Yorkshireman, but his plain talking never cost him a friend.”
Eventually though, Harry chose to move away from desk work and wanted to get back “on the road”, so he became the paper’s Yorkshire reporter when the opportunity arose some years later.
He stayed in that job, serving the Daily Express diligently and indefatigably, until he finally left the paper less than three years ago.
An erudite and colourful man, whose private array of interests encompassed everything from good food and wine to period motor cars, gardening, dry stone walling and Roman history, he also loved to travel.
Harry will be fondly remembered by his former colleagues in legendary journalistic anecdotes, which will be told long after his untimely death.
Always down to earth, Harry was an intelligent and well-read man who could discuss serious subjects with a knowledge that baffled many.
He is survived by his second wife Gail, also a journalist, a son and daughter from his previous marriage and a number of grandchildren.
Gail thanks those who have sent notes and letters. “I am very grateful – reading them has given me very great comfort. I still can’t believe what has happened.”