I have very similar memories of John and Margaret Cornwell, they were both great people.
They lived in a house at the bottom of my road, and I was only thinking about John the other day. I used to see him going past on the way to the shops and had not seen him for a while. I was one of those lucky enough to receive coaching from him at the YMCA. I can remember going along there with loads of kids aged from 11-18 at 2.30pm on Saturdays in the early 60s. Once we had been sorted out into those who could play or wanted to play, we then went at 4pm when John Loker, Les Constable and Keith Chapman were there to lend a hand. From this group, Paul Chisnall, Alan Ponder, Dennis Collinson?, Carole Chapman and myself emerged as the first Junior County team the following autumn and spent our first year being beaten 10-0 or 9-1, by the likes of Chester Barnes and Lesley Bell of Essex. John and Margaret used to take us to away matches and I think my husband Keith did as well.
John was a marvellous coach. I can remember the push defence shot and we all learned that before going onto the forehand drive. John used to demonstrate by swinging his bat in a J shape Then he would get us to serve onto a hankie placed strategically on the table. When the Carringtons came to Cambridge they used to say they could pick out Cambridge peoplebecause we did not move our feet very much! He was the nicest person you could ever wish to meet and if you wanted someone to hold up as a perfect example of a good sportsman, you could get no better. Whilst he played to win, should he lose he was the most gracious of men. I think he played cricket and football for the county.
I doubt if John’s like will ever be seen again. A multi talented sportsman and all round great man to have known.
Ruth Puddick (née Buttle)
John also coached at Bottisham Youth club or Village College as he coached me during the late 60’s.
I remember John and Margaret so very well. Slim, athletic, cool, calm, insightful, and enormously helpful are words that come immediately to mind. I remember when I wanted to learn how to play TT my father drove me to the YMCA one Saturday morning, from Kneesworth, and Mr Cornwell came over to greet us, smiled such a friendly smile, and convinced my Dad that I would be in good hands, I could learn to play at the YMCA, and I would be fine until later in the afternoon if left in his care.
I distinctly remember being taught, by John, the "backhand push" on that first day. Both John and Margaret were instrumental in the direct and indirect enjoyment of many many people.
Very sorry to hear this although I had seen John occasionally in Cambridge and could see he was struggling a bit health wise. The time has flown past since all those years ago when I first came into contact with John. Ken gave such a lovely tribute to John and many of us will accord with all he said.
Ken Muhr’s tribute was very moving, as John (and Margaret) were responsible for sharing their passion for table tennis with so many juniors at that time. And I would guess that even those who do not still play or coach the game would have attended the table tennis at London 2012, having been inspired in the 60s and 70s at the YMCA.
Debbie Evans (née Clarke)
I also went thru' the Sat coaching sessions with John and Margaret and my first League team was YMCA 5 with Margaret and Maurice Beckford. I then graduated to assisting with the sessions with the likes of Steve Andrews and Alan Ponder and the Puddicks-Keith and John. The sessions were always packed as I think all were enthused by John’s patience and enthusiasm for the game.
I had heard from Steve Andrews of the sad news last Saturday. Everything Ken Muhr said about John was absolutely spot on. He was always so calm, I don't think I ever saw him get angry, and he always had so much time for everybody whatever their ability. He truly was an inspiration as a person and a coach to everybody, a wonderful man. I moved to Norfolk in 1980 to teach at Gresham's school and only saw him a couple of times since moving, the last about 5 years ago when I went back to meet up with him and others such as Paul Chisnall, Ron Nunn, Keith Chapman. We had a great evening talking about old times, the YMCA had a lot to answer for!!