A popular Norwich businessman with a love for sports and “a heart as big as his body” has died.

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Kenny Cooke, founder of the successful Dolphin Autos and Dolphin Travel businesses, famously gifted use of a Rolls Royce to Norwich City manager Ken Brown after the Canaries’ Milk Cup win in 1985.

But it was with Wroxham FC that he had his longest association, providing investment that propelled the club to non-league success during nearly 30 years of involvement.

Mr Cooke was diagnosed with cancer in May 2010, just days before the club realised his long-time dream by appearing at Wembley in the FA Vase final. He died on Sunday, aged 74.

Touching tributes have been paid to the grandfather-of-three, who also managed a large property portfolio and was a keen boxing fan and stock-car racing national champion.

His son Melly said his father was “the sort of chap who would help anybody”.

He added: “He was a bit of a rough diamond, if that’s the word, a lovable rogue. He would always give people a second chance and saw the best in them. I think that was because he came from absolutely nothing himself. He knew that if he helped them, when it came to him needing their help, they would be there for him.”

Mr Cooke, of Thorpe End, leaves Connie, his wife of 55 years, son and daughter-in-law Melly and Debbie, and grandchildren Megan, Laura-Rose and Perry. Mr and Mrs Cooke also had a daughter, Dawn, who died in a road accident in 1978, aged 18.

The family business empire began in 1963 when Mr Cooke opened Dolphin Autos, in Raynham Street, the unlikely result of him being forced to fix his wife’s car after an accident. His son said: “He didn’t have the money to repair the car, so he tried doing it himself. Then people asked him to do theirs too, and it just went from there.”

In 1988 the business moved to premises in Nelson Street, which were converted to flats after a move to Swanton Road in 2003.

A supporter of several good causes, Mr Cooke was also a patron of the charity Ad Libs and a life president of Norwich Lads amateur boxing club. He had enjoyed sporting success himself, racing stock cars for 25 years before winning the National Hotrods English Championship in 1986.

Trafford Park, the home of Wroxham FC, was the scene of some of Mr Cooke’s most cherished memories over more than a quarter of a century.

Yesterday the club was in mourning for one of its stalwarts, who was as likely to sell half-time raffle tickets as he was provide the investment for a run to Wembley.

Les King, club life vice-president and a close friend of Mr Cooke, said: “He had time for everybody. If someone was struggling or down and out they could always go and see Kenny. He had a great respect for what he did at Wroxham, and in boxing too. Wroxham FC won’t be the same without Kenny – he will be missed by so many people.”

mark.shields@archant.co.uk

9 comments

  • Kenny would not ask anyone to do a job he was not willing to do himself & would always muck in to sort a problem. Seen him more than once in the yard sorting things in the middle of the night. Kenny thought outside the box. He would help most & known him to give someone 2nd & 3rd chances, He was open & fair to work with. Thoughts with the family.

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    Richard Potter

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

  • I have known Kenny and his family for over 30 years, as Melly said, Kenny would help anybody with no strings. My thoughts are with Connie , Melly, Debbie and family. R.I.P Kenny, Kathy(Burrows)

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    Kathyk

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • iv only known kenny for two years , but the memories will last a life time. R.I.P mate , fudge xxx

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    fudge

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • I went to school with Kenny, he was a great guy to know and be with. The day he left school he was pushing his trade bike through the gates, I asked him why? He replied: When the bell goes for the last time this afternoon I'm going to ride the bike down the hill and start work ! God bless you Kenny ! I drove past one of your coaches today and the number plate was KEN.

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    Stop Press

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • Kenny was a 'one in a million' with a heart of gold. We will miss him loads, and our thoughts are with Connie, Melly and family. RIP mate. Kevin, Tracey, and Kelly xxx

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    Love life

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • I remember Kenny from his days when he raced stock cars and hot rods. He always got on very well with my dad (George) during that time. Condolences to all the family.

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    Len Harvey

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

  • iv only known kenny for two years , but the memories will last a life time. R.I.P mate , fudge xxx

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    fudge

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • will be sadly missed always quick witted and funny and fair thinking of connie & family at this sad time deepest sympathy michael & trudie

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    Michael Harvey

    Monday, August 6, 2012

  • Kenny Cooke was a very well - respected, compassionate, shrewd and decent man. He was a gifted communicator with people on many different levels. He was inspirational and loyal. He will be much missed. Ian

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    ifisher92

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

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