Obituary - Pete Comfort

5th August 2011 at 01:00
Chronic health problems failed to hold back a born teacher who went the extra mile

Pete Comfort (or "Comfy" to his pupils) died on 10 July, aged 55, after complications following a kidney transplant. An Alford boy by birth, Pete started his career as an art teacher in 1978 at Banchory Academy and was promoted five years later to principal teacher of guidance at Alford Academy, where he had just completed his 28th year of devoted and utterly selfless service to the school, to the community, and, above all, to his pupils.

In his element in the classroom, he was a natural teacher, with a uniquely humorous style, who cared passionately about his pupils as individuals. They were "a his bairns".

He talked their language and took great time and care to give and gain respect. Once Pete had these strong positive relationships in place, he "worked his magic", straight talking with the youngsters, cajoling and motivating them. He was particularly skilled at working with vulnerable and challenging youngsters, persevering with them, fighting their corner - not always by the book - to give them the best possible chances for their future.

Pete had real community spirit and knew "gie near a'thing about a'body", and he used this knowledge, along with great local business relationships, to open doors for pupils. He managed many school football teams (including ones for girls), led innumerable residential trips, and his holistic approach to education extended far into his life beyond school, where he became renowned for providing common-sense approaches to support the youngsters he met through his many years of service on the children's panel. Going that extra mile was part of his DNA.

An insulin-dependent diabetic since the age of 14, Pete never once complained about his illness, stressing instead the need to "get on wi' it". He was very rarely off work, despite his latter need to self- administer kidney dialysis four times daily, with one session during his lunch hour. Instead, he remained constantly upbeat, putting his heart and soul into his work, still planning a "return speech" to senior pupils as he lay in hospital after his transplant.

Alas, the operation that would have transformed his life was not a success, but he took on its risks in the same spirit he took on life, grabbing opportunities with both hands.

Pete's contribution to education was immense: he touched so many lives, and will be remembered by generations of pupils, parents and colleagues for being a genuine, fun-loving and hard-working man with a heart of gold, well deserving the title of legend, one of the best teachers ever. Alford Academy has lost someone very special, but Pete has left a legacy beyond measure: his spirit, his strength and his hope are deeply rooted in the life and work of our school, and will live on for many years to come.

Moira Milne is headteacher at Alford Academy, Aberdeenshire.

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