Andrew was born in 1930 in Accrington, Lancashire. His father was a coal miner. His mother previously worked in cotton mills. He attended the local school from the age of 5 years. In 1937, his father suffered from health problems due to working conditions at the coalmine. The Kenyon family (4 children plus parents) moved to Coventry where his father found work in the car industry. Andrew continued to attend the local school in Coventry but at 9 years old contracted meningitis resulting in losing his hearing.
From 1940 to 1946, he was placed in an institutionalised school for the “Deaf and Dumb” according to signage outside. His education was dramatically affected. In 1942, all the family was again on the move due to being bombed out during intensive raids on Coventry. They moved to Leicestershire. In 1946, he completed the entrance exam and moved to Mary Hare Grammar School on its opening. He left the MHGS in 1949 with acceptable exam results. He secured a post with the Electricity Board in accounts; studied for his ACCA exams which he passed at intermediate level and proceeded to the final part. In 1955, attended MHGS Old Pupil’s reunion where he met Diane and was married in 1959.Due to not being happy with his career progress at Electricity Board and through a chance chat to a colleague, lead to him taking the Civil Service exam in London which he passed. A subsequent letter from Civil Service said there would be difficulties in finding him a position and suggested he withdraw which he turned down. He moved to London in 1960 to work at the Post Office which was then part of Civil Service.
In 1961 he met Denis Uttley who visited their home on many occasions. This was followed with discussions on various matters of mutual interest including education and greater deaf participation. This was followed by Andrew & Diane taking part in Denis’s Parent Group activities including residential/camping. This culminated in the first Thorpeness family holiday which led to an annual event from 1968, gradually building up to seven houses for deaf and hearing parents and younger people.
In January 1971 Andrew & Diane eventually set up, with the help of other pioneering deaf and hearing people including Ken Carter, Peter Howes, Morag & Hamish Rosie, a new charity, Breakthrough which was registered with the Charity Commission with support from the Gulbenkian Foundation and Chase Charity. From 1971 through to 1990 after several moves around London a more permanent London Centre was set up and projects expanded into the London Boroughs and beyond. At the same time, Birmingham & the Midlands were also developing national programmes.
In 1985, following preliminary enquiries and contact with the European Commission by Denis Uttley, Andrew was able to visit Brussels and through these visits established EuroAction with backing from the Director of Social Interaction & Development. Annual Seminars were organised for participating Euro members with meetings of the organising group taking place several times a year. Through the establishment of EuroAction, a Youth Group was set up under the auspices of the European Offices. In 1990, Andrew and Diane decided that it was time to pass over their pioneering work to other younger deaf and hearing people. Even though they have kept in touch since their retirement, they did enjoy a period when they spent time at their mobile home in the South of France. They did attend the 40th Anniversary Breakthrough Reunion in 2011 and were two of the main speakers.
It was very fitting that Andrew & Diane became Co-Honorary Presidents of Deaf Aspirations and were in that position from the beginning of this charitable enterprise.
Andrew’s funeral service took place on Monday, 9th January,2023 at 11.00am at St Luke’s Church, Royal Tunbridge Wells, the burial at the Cemetery nearby and the reception at the Conservatory Room at The Barn in Royal Tunbridge Wells.
It really was a wonderful “Celebration” of his long life and we think Andrew would have approved of all the arrangements. Diane’s Tribute to Andrew (1930-2022) was so moving & personal; and can be found in the Church Service booklet along with others (daughters, Julie & Anna, grandson Louie and son-in-law Andy Keen) who participated in the service & its readings. There was a small number of warm- hearted deaf and hearing people who were invited to this “very special” remembrance memorial of a truly great person.