HAVING made a career as a solicitor, specialising in family law and divorce, John Stakes – who has died aged 68 – moved from Leeds to the Lake District where he and his wife ran a bed and breakfast business.
One of twins, Mr Stakes was born in Dewsbury, and had two half-sisters from his father’s first marriage. From a young age, he and his twin brother excelled at games, and both played cricket to a high level. He went on to play for Leeds University.
Their mother was a teacher and their father was an accountant and on the finance committee of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, often taking his boys to watch matches from the members’ enclosure at Headingley. The ground remained a place of delight for Mr Stakes for as long as he lived in Leeds.
Mr Stakes went to Leeds University to study law, and his first job was in Northampton where his mother had set up home following the death of his father.
He later moved to Leeds and became a partner at Cranswick Watson and then Gordons where, in addition to specialising in family law and divorce, he earned a reputation for his expertise in handling child abduction cases.
He had two daughters with his first wife Annette, and took on the role of stepfather to three daughters when he married Susie Samuels.
When Mr Stakes made up his mind to do something, there were no half measures. In the 70s, he took up long distance running, qualified for the London Marathon and ran it in a reputable three hours.
The arts, especially film and theatre, were immensely important to him. He went into amateur dramatics when he left university and continued his interest in them. He had an impeccable sense of timing and his attention to detail was fastidious. The most important associations in his life were with the Adel Players in Leeds and Keswick Theatre Club, where he acted as well as directed.
Despite his realisation that comedy was the hardest thing to do, he was exceptionally funny, and won Best Supporting Actor for a comedy role he played at the Wharfedale Festival.
Following his retirement from the law, in 2006 he and his wife moved to Keswick, both of them sharing a great love of the Lake District.
They set up a B&B – and embarked on a learning curve like nothing they had experienced before. Mr Stakes, congenial and with a seemingly bottomless fund of anecdotes, became expert at advising guests on the best walks.
In the town he earned a reputation for his vibrant and enthusiastic approach to life.
He became a volunteer with the Borrowdale Lengthsmen, fixing and maintaining footpaths for the National Trust, a weekly activity he found deeply rewarding.
He became the film reviewer for the Sunday Film Club and joined the committee of the North Lakes Accommodation Providers.
Very soon after his move to the Lakes he joined the Keswick Theatre Club and before becoming ill was chairman.
The radar of his enquiring mind picked up Wordsworth House at Cockermouth where he was soon a weekly volunteer guide, his enthusiasm and knowledge proving contagious.
Mr Stakes is survived by his wife Susie, his children Katy and Jenny, his step-children Louise, Anthony and Jessica, and his grandson Floyd and step-granddaughter Elena. His funeral will be held at Carlisle Crematorium on Tuesday at 12.20pm.