John Justin Coope, Master Chocolatier, generally known as Justin, who died on Sunday, 16th, December, 2012, was a well known and much loved figure, in Whitby which had been his home for more than 30 years.
There are many people who will be better qualified than myself to right a fuller obituary of this larger-than-life character, but I did know Justin, quite well in a casual way, either through our mutual liking for a quiet drink in the rear bar of the Black Horse.
Or by our daily contact on Church Street, when he would usually proclaiming his dissatisfaction with some aspect of the local scene, be it the follies of the Council, or the sudden, and to him, the inexplicable, popularity, with the public, of panninis, which he described to me as being ‘like eating damp face flannels’.
My last meeting with Justin was in the Black Horse on late Friday afternoon, I was engaged in conversation with another of Justin’s fans, Elaine Sendel ,when Justin burst through the door and flopped on the bar; we thought nothing of this at the time, as this kind of thing was not uncharacterstic of Justin.
I merely asked if he was feeling alright and offered to get him a chair. After a couple of drinks he regained his composure and explained that he was under a lot of pressure with Christmas being upon him, together with other pressing matters, he departed soon afterwards and I never gave, what turned out to be, our last meeting any more thought.
I was shocked to see an ambulance outside Justin’s shop early on the Sunday morning and devastated to learn that he had passed away.
Justin was born in Bollington in Cheshire,in 1956, his father John Coope M.B.E. was a GP, as had been his father, but Justin did not follow in the family tradition.
Justin’s father was a remarkable man in that he founded the famous Bollington Arts Festival, in 1964, which continues to this day.
He also wrote music and plays and was the author of a book about Chekov, he was awarded the M.B.E. for his many services to the community, and he was succeeded in his medical practice by Gerald, Justin’s brother.
Justin had many interests in life – music, fishing, current affairs, politics, the outdoors in general and walking, amongst many others.
He was also always keen to involve himself in local controversy – he organised the 2000 name petition against the Marina development in 2004 and, on occasion, spoke out against the neglect by the Council, of the infrastructure of Whitby, in particular the Swing Bridge closure, in 2010.
He was, despite his apparent gruffness, generally of good humour and was an amusing companion with a fund of good stories.
He could be guilty (as everyone can) of the hasty word, later regretted, but he was not a man to bear a grudge, and he was always ready to acknowledge his shortcomings in this department and to apologise when his comments had caused some minor offence.
Of late, his health had not been good. He had developed diabetes and had a lung condition which required him, on medical advice, to ‘roar like a lion’ which some found disconcerting.
He was being treated for his health problems and had recently changed his medication, but this did not seem to suit him and he had complained of frequent light headedness.
He had given up driving some time ago, as he also suffered from some kind of blackout problem, and he did not seem to be able to pursue his country walks of late, although his new canine companion, Rocky, was an encouragement to him in this respect.
He had plans for forming a band on the lines of The Pogues and had approached several local musicians with a view to them assisting him in this project.
We will all miss Justin, as Ken Graham remarked to me earlier today, ‘the community is dying, all the families have gone and now all the characters are dying’