Graeme Watkins, former board director at Central England Co-op, dies aged 78

Society president Elaine Dean paid tribute to his ‘life-long contribution to co-operation, enthusiasm and dedication to the success of co-operatives’

Life-long co-operator Graeme Watkins, a former board director at Central England Co-op, has died from cancer at the age of 78.

A spokesperson for the society said he died “peacefully, surrounded by his family”, on 27 May.

Mr Watkins had extensive experience as a director at the Anglia Regional Co-operative Society, which went on to merge with Midlands Society to form Central England Co-operative.

He began his career with the Inland Revenue, where he was based in Specialist Offices, before working on the early computerisation of PAYE as a systems analyst and programmer.  From 1979 he was employed by the Labour Party as an agent, leading teams of volunteers in election campaigns.

Formerly a district councillor, chairman of Farcet Parish Council in Peterborough and an independent custody visitor for the Police Authority, Mr Watkins also volunteered for the Citizens Advice Bureau, and worked as a trustee of Huntingdonshire District Council Standards Committee.

Graeme Watkins

He believed that it is essential for co-operative values to influence the decisions made by retail societies, and that Central England Co-operative was well placed to promote the tradition of community involvement and responsibility for its members. 

He was a champion for new investment in stores and the latest uses for technology in order to keep co-ops relevant for new audiences. Mr Watkins was also a keen advocate of green initiatives and cleaner methods of energy production and consumption.

An enthusiastic supporter of cricket in general and Hampshire CCC in particular, Graeme also supported AFC Bournemouth and enjoyed travel and photography.

Central England president Elaine Dean said: On behalf of the board, colleagues and members of Central England Co-operative, I would like to offer our thoughts at this time to Graeme’s wife Laura and his family, and ask that we all remember his life-long contribution to co-operation, enthusiasm and dedication to the success of co-operatives. He had a vibrant personality, a brilliant memory and an incredible attention to detail.”

Graeme is survived by his wife, Laura; children, John, Susan and Ian and his grandchildren.