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News > General > Tribute to past student Andy Oaker (OC1978)

Tribute to past student Andy Oaker (OC1978)

It is with great sadness that Colyton Grammar School has learned of the death of Andrew Oaker (OC1978). Following a recent diagnosis of Lung Cancer he passed away 24th August 2022, at his home.
6 Sep 2022
Written by Emma Styles
General
In memory of Andrew Oaker (OC1979)
In memory of Andrew Oaker (OC1979)

Andrew James Oaker was a pupil at Colyton Grammar School in the 1970's and some of you may remember his parents who ran the Colcome Castle and later, the White Hart pub in Colyford. Andy was a regular in chatting to all of the customers and helping out where he could, making people smile as he did so.

Upon completing his A levels, he moved to Bristol to do nurse training which he thoroughly enjoyed and had a general knack for. He always was a compassionate and caring individual. During his final year of studies, he was diagnosed with HIV and the Department of Health and the school were reluctant to allow nurses to practice if they were HIV. His incredible tutor at the time, Paul Hill enabled him to submit his finals.

During 1995, he was very unwell and family and friends had been prepared that he wouldn't make it. He was even too ill to attend his father’s funeral. Andy however became a pioneer in coming out when he did and testing HIV drugs which not only saved his life but also the lives of many others. 

It was once Andy had recovered that he met Joe McNulty, who would become his life partner, not only in love but also in business as they both set up 'Theatre Learning' (https://www.theatrelearning.co.uk/). They worked together to facilitate and play-out scenarios to a variety of companies, incorporating themes such as diversity, bullying, sexual harassment, among other hard-hitting and controversial things. They have worked together with local councils in Exeter, London, Torridge as well as universities, the Ministry of Defence and Babcock International Group. Together, they have developed a wonderful company and environment, changing how every day learning is brought to companies.

Andy also worked for a time with both Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and Devon and Cornwall Police Constabulary and in both organisations he made friends for life.

Together, both Andy and Joe embarked on a number of adventures together, taking regular trips together around the globe, including trips on the Queen Mary 2 Cruise Liner. Their last trip together came just two weeks before Andy was taken unwell. They were both able to have an adventure to the US and Ireland visiting members of their family, without the knowledge that it would be their final journey together.

Andy contracted COVID upon their return and along with his COPD, an earlier condition, he became very unwell and his health declined quickly. It soon became apparent that there was an underlying condition and Andy was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. There were just five weeks between him feeling unwell, going into hospital, finding out his diagnosis and his passing. During this time, he met with family and friends and was able to discuss his wishes. One of these was the hope to have his funeral at Exeter Cathedral. His final wishes were granted and he knew about this prior to his passing which was received with two thumbs up and a smile.

Andy Oaker died at home on Wednesday 24 August, with the sun shining through his window, the flowers in full bloom in his garden, accompanied by his husband Joe, sister Gillian and brother-in-law Chris. His funeral took place on Saturday 3 September at Exeter Cathedral and he was carried out to the Star Wars theme tune. Some what of a first for Exeter Cathedral. Over 500 people came to pay their respects to such a joyous character.

If you were honoured enough to have known Andy then you would've been hit by his kindness, compassion, humour, love and general joy. David Gunn-Johnson, rector at Exeter Cathedral encouraged the congregation to "Be more Andy". Something which many will take forward in his memory. The world really did lose a good one that day and many hearts are filled with an Andy-shaped hole.

In lieu of a retiring collection, Andy wanted donations to be split between Hospiscare and FORCE Cancer Charity who have provided support to both Andy and Joe. If you wish to donate to this cause, please visit: https://andyoaker.muchloved.com/

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