It was with great sadness that 100 Years of Coconuts learned of the death, on May 13 at the age of 83, of lifelong U's supporter and former chairman Terry Baker.
A fan since 1947, when Abbey United were taking their first tentative steps into semi-professional football, a long-term sponsor and member of the Vice-Presidents' Club, Terry became a director in 2005, when the club was facing the consequences of administration, relegation from the Football League and the possibility of liquidation.
Aged 70 when he first joined the board, he served three spells as a director, stepped in twice to chair the club and finally retired in 2016.
Terry started watching United at the age of 13, when his family moved to Cambridge after World War II. He worked in senior management positions for the Pye electronics group – acquired by Philips in 1976 – and founded the BEAM Group, distributor of electric kitchen appliances and homewares, in the village of Over more than 30 years ago.
Having semi-retired from BEAM, he entered the United boardroom when the club was experiencing its darkest hour. Recruited to bring his business experience to a relatively inexperienced board, he joined Roger Hunt, John Howard, Paul Barry, Brian Attmore, Nick Pomery and Justyn Medd, following the departures of Gary Harwood, Gerald Lowe, Richard Summerfield and Johnny Hon.
He became chairman in February 2006, in succession to Hunt, but resigned in June in the wake of the failure of that summer's Abbey Aid concerts and having seen his bid to bring in Garry Chapman as commercial director vetoed. ‘Those primarily responsible for the fiasco wouldn’t walk the plank, and I thought it was easier for me to take the responsibility,’ he said at the time. He had put his hand in his pocket to pay wages of £40,000 not long before.
Terry rejoined the board in March 2008, with turmoil still reigning in the boardroom, and was charged with looking after matters relating to the Abbey Stadium. When chairman Phil Law stood down in September, Terry stepped in again. ‘Someone has to step into the breach in an acting role,' he said. 'Despite my age, I’ve still got plenty of life left in me, but I think a young man should be given the chance.’
George Rolls was appointed club chairman on 28 January 2009, with Terry as vice-chairman. Rolls' reign was brief but eventful; when he left in the summer, Paul Barry was installed as his successor and Terry resigned his directorship, citing an offer by Barry and business partner Adrian Hanauer to buy back the Abbey from Bideawhile 445 as one of the reasons.
He returned to United for his third spell as director in January 2012, replacing Hanauer. ‘There’s an old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and that applies in this case,’ he said. The club gradually stabilised under first Barry, then Dave Doggett as chairman, and Terry retired from the board in 2016 with the club at last re-established in the Football League. He was made an honorary director.
100 Years of Coconuts continues to work in partnership with Cambridge United Community Trust and Dementia Compass in running monthly sports cafés at the Abbey Stadium, helping people with dementia to recall the past.
The monthly sessions use memorabilia, photographs, memory cards, newspaper cuttings and other objects to help evoke memories of days gone by. This kind of activity can have a positive effect on health and wellbeing, and can also help to combat depression and loneliness. Feedback from guests and their partners and/or carers is heartening.
Over tea and biscuits, participants discuss their memories of sporting triumphs (and failures), great teams, star performers and remarkable events. Sometimes there's an extra element – a behind-the-scenes tour of the Abbey, a visit to Coconuts' mini-museum or a talk from legendary U's goalkeeper Rodney Slack.
The next sports café will take place at 2pm on Wednesday, June 13. If you know of someone who would enjoy and benefit from taking part, contact Andy Farrer (email@example.com) or Pat Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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