Respects are paid to an “utterly charming” man known for his influential role in academic libraries, who died.

The legacy of John Cowley, 89, will forever be remembered by people across the globe as his early life took an unexpected turn into the life of literature and academia.

Mr Cowley, who was born in Preston, Lancashire before setting off to Walthamstow, was the founder of the Waltham Forest branch of the University of the Third Age.

The university was a place for people no longer in full-time employment or those with families to learn further skills and knowledge.

Ironically despite his extensive history in academia and being a deputy librarian, Mr Cowley only followed such a path after the Second World War.

His wife Jane Harrington explained that as a kid, Mr Cowley was known as “a little blonde Jackie Cowley” who would help out with whatever tasks he could and was extremely talented at sports.

Throughout the war, Mr Cowley dedicated his youth to helping out a local farm at Lancashire, but it wasn’t until after the war when his direction in life changed.

After finishing school, a friend of his said he applied to work in the Harris Library and art gallery in Lancashire - Mr Cowley followed through and was successful.

Mrs Harrington said: “John was very familiar with literature, he didn’t think he would enjoy it as much as he did, he wasn’t a book kind of a boy, he was a sporty boy.”

He studied for his library qualifications in Liverpool and in the early 1950’s, as part of the National Service, he was put into helping out with education due to his history at the library, after which he looked for the next step in his life.

It was then he decided to head south to Hertfordshire and became the first tutor librarian at Mid-Herts College Library in Welwyn Garden City.

He later moved to Walthamstow with his wife.

Since his passing, many former colleagues have expressed their delight in knowing Mr Cowley, as they called him “utterly charming” and they were “immediately struck by joy” in how conversational and enchanting he was.

In 1985, publishers William Dawson asked for Mr Cowley to work alongside them as a marketing director for ten years.

The idea of retirement approached around the time, which inspired him to make his mark in Walthamstow with launching the University of the Third Age (U3A)

He was inspired when reading about the Chingford U3A, and decided this would be his next project when finishing off with William Dawson.

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The U3A 20th anniversary with John Cowley (left) and group leader Frances Hobden (right)

In 1995, the branch opened and became his “most proud” project, as helping to enhance others lives gave him absolute pleasure.

One member has since wrote about his passing, saying that Mr Cowley was the first person he met and has stuck with him.

This year would have marked the 25th anniversary since the opening of the Walthamstow U3A branch.

He said when he thinks of John, he thinks of him with sunshine and a glass of wine in his hands.

Mr Cowley died on March 15 at Whipps Cross Hospital.

He is survived by his wife, his sons, David, Ian, Alan and Robert, from his first marriage, six grandchildren, Nicola, Beth, Luke, Alice, Josef and George, and four great-grandchildren.