Memorial service for Newham athlete and Bishop Challoner teacher Ed Coffey

Ed Coffey

Ed Coffey - Credit: Coffey family

Hundreds of former pupils are expected on Friday for a memorial service to a popular east London schoolteacher and athlete who died suddenly, soon after retiring.

Ed Coffey had been teaching at Stepney’s Bishop Challoner school for 10 years when he retired as Deputy Head at 65 in 2010 to live in Cornwall.

The son of a Dagenham factory worker was a fit athlete who ran regularly for Newham & Essex Beagles, even up to retirement.

But he was diagnosed at Christmas with cancer and died within 10 weeks.

“His death in April was a shock to the whole school,” former Head of Girls Rose Edmands said this week. “Such was his popularity that one of his students came from Sussex University to Cornwall for his funeral—it’s not often you find that sort of pupil-teacher relationship.

“Ed devoted his life to the education of working-class youngsters.”

Mr Coffey came from a working-class background himself, raised in Dagenham the son of a Ford’s motorworks foreman. He was educated at St Bonaventure’s in Plaistow and Bishop Ward Sixthform in Dagenham before going to Essex University in Colchester to study Economics.

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His widow Jane said: “Ed was very fit and never ill. He ran regularly for the Beagles for years and won medals for them—he knew people like Daley Thompson through the club.

“But he suddenly lost weight at Christmas and we found out he had a virulent pancreatic cancer. He died just 10 weeks later—it was all so sudden and quite a shock.”

The couple had two children and two grandchildren.

Ed Coffey also taught at schools in Canning Town, Ilford and Brentwood, as well as his old school St Bonaventure’s in Plaistow, before taking up his post at Bishop Challoner’s teaching economics and maths.

His memorial service is at St Mary and St Michael RC church in Commercial Road, Stepney, at 4pm on Friday.

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