THE Very Rev Keith Jukes, Dean of Ripon, who has died aged 59 just hours after being admitted to hospital, had the ability to put people at ease with his genial, easy-going manner; he was obviously compassionate, but also decisive and astute, and possessed a strong personality.
His early death is seen as a blow to the Anglican Church, those who knew him well recognising that he would have risen to eminence in whatever career he had chosen to follow. A compassionate nature perhaps influenced his choice of the Church.
On February 28, 2001, Dean Jukes was vicar of Selby Abbey and travelling in his car when he heard on the radio first reports of a train disaster at Great Heck.
He immediately turned around and headed for the scene, arriving in time to see emergency services pulling survivors from the wreckage of a GNER Inter-City 225.
After striking a Land Rover with a loaded trailer which had swerved off the M62 and careered down an embankment before stopping on the south-bound rail track, the high-speed express was deflected into the path of a freight train.
Ten people, including the drivers of both trains, were killed and 82 others suffered serious injuries.
When Dean Jukes arrived, survivors were being carried into the shelter of a nearby barn, and there he met the Rev Cyril Roberts, team rector of Great Snaith, and together they did what they could to comfort the bereaved and encourage the injured.
Three days later, the two clergymen organised a special service of remembrance at Hensall Church, a mile from the crash site, and attended by the bishops of Doncaster and Selby.
Dean Jukes began his career after graduating from Leeds University in 1976 and attending Lincoln Theological College. He was made deacon in 1978, serving as a curate at Wordsley, a suburb of Birmingham, and was priested the following year.
He served a second curacy in Wolverhampton, and in 1983 became curate-in-charge of St Martin’s, Stoneydelph, near Tamworth, becoming team rector of Glascote and Stoneydelph in 1991.
Then, as team rector of Cannock and vicar of Hatherton, he was made rural dean of Tamworth, and in 1996 a prebendary (or canon) of Lichfield Cathedral.
He returned to Yorkshire in 1997 as priest-in-charge of Selby Abbey, becoming its vicar in 1999.
His time at Selby confirmed his perspicacity and the quality of his leadership; keeping the Abbey in sufficient funds to cover its day-to-day costs requires ingenuity, energy, focus and the ability to win the co-operation and trust of many diverse people.
He met all of these requirements, to the extent that he not only kept things going but oversaw the Abbey’s restoration. His qualities were recognised in 2007 when he was appointed Dean of Ripon Cathedral.
Last Sunday, he wrote an announcement to be read at services in the Cathedral from which the congregation learned that he had been unwell and that tests had revealed a growth in his upper abdomen which doctors were convinced was cancerous.
The note concluded: “I am at home at the moment, feeling very weak and tired, but in good heart. I know that come what may, God is with me, and my life is in his hands. Please pray for me, and for Susanne and our family. God bless you all, Keith.”
His wife, the Rev Susanne Jukes, was at his side when he died.
Their two children, Laura and Matthew, also survive him.