We would like to invite you to join us at the cremation funeral service to celebrate and commemorate the life of Christopher John Penkett.
The cremation service will take place at Park wood Crematorium, Elland, HX5 9HZ at 2:15pm on Friday 24th September.
Afterwards, we will be holding a Wake afternoon tea Celebration of Christopher’s life at No. 1 Brook Street at Bertie’s in Elland HX5 9AW and we hope very much that you can join us there.
Please wear whatever you will feel most comfortable with for honouring Christopher’s passing, if your are attending in person.
If you would like to contribute to Christopher’s tribute page please contact [email protected] with your words. We request no flower’s, but you can make a donation, in Christopher’s name, to support Christopher’s small local cricket teams in Cambridge. Donations in Christopher’s name can be made here.
The funeral will also be live-streamed via Wesley Media and here is the link and login details if you would like to view his service:
Login / Order ID: 109614
Christopher’s service will contain two pieces of music, which might not be heard on the webcast. If you would like to listen along, wherever you are, the pieces included in Christopher’s service are as follows:
Christopher enters Park Wood: Ave Maria Bach/Gounod (Yo Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott):
We say goodbye to Christopher: Elgar Nimrod (sung by Voces8)
Please call 01422 400430 if you have any issues accessing Christopher’s service broadcast. We hope that you can join us and please do let us know if you can attend.
With our best wishes,
Stuart, Marigold, Fiona, Clive and Rebecca
Tributes for Christopher
I am writing this statement in my previous role as Direct NIHR BioResource – Rare Diseases, a function I occupied in the University of Cambridge from 2013-2018. During this 5-year stint I have worked closely with Dr Christopher (Chris for us) Penkett. Chris was appointed by me as Team Lead for the NIHR BioResource – Rare Diseases Core Bioinformatics Team of six staff. In 2013 we embarked on a journey of discovery in modern genomics. In 2012 it had been shown by colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute that it was feasible to read the entire DNA code of a human, or so called genome within a matter of days. Under my supervision the NIHR BioResource team set out to bring this new diagnostic opportunity to the bedside, with a focus on improving the diagnosis of rare diseases. One in 20 babies born experience ill-health in the early decades of life because of the presence of a mutation in their DNA code, either past on from the parents or arisen ‘de-novo’ during conception. Typically parents would wait on average halve a year before a genetic diagnosis had been reached and a conclusive diagnosis was only obtained in less than 20% of patients.
The NIHR BioResource – Rare Diseases project set out to reduce the length of this diagnostic odyssey and to at least double the portion of patients for whom a conclusive diagnosis could be made. This groundbreaking project engaged over 13,000 patients and their doctors in over 100 hospitals, in the UK and overseas. The Whole Genome Sequencing test was applied to their DNA samples. The team led by Chris was responsible for processing and annotating the sequence information which flowed from the instruments used for the deciphering of the DNA code. This was a true large data project because a single computer file holding the sequence data of one DNA sample requires five ‘mobile phones’ of storage space (e.g. 150 Gb). Over the 5-year duration of the project the Core Bioinformatics Team led by Chris did oversee the processing, annotation and archiving of 2.5 Petabyte of DNA sequencing data. Altogether, the NIHR BioResource – Rare Diseases project was a worldwide first, it laid the foundation for the successful delivery of the 100,000 Genomes Project and based on its results the NHS is now in the process of implementing the Whole Genome Sequencing test as the standard of care for patients with an assumed diagnosis of a rare disease.
Chris was accountable to me for the work of his team. Over the years I became aware that Chris had a reputation in the Cambridge bioinformatic scene as one of the brightest and most concise writers of compute code in town (there are thousands of people with similar skills in the University and one the Welcome Trust Genomic Campus). It was his commitment, deep knowledge and perseverance that contributed to the success of this transformational research project, which will not only bring benefit to thousands of NHS patients in the UK each year but over the next decade bring improvements to millions of patients worldwide. The results of the research has been published in over 50 manuscripts, many having been co-authored by Chris. More specifically Chris and I co-authored 18 original manuscripts with many appearing in high-impact journals like Nature, Nature Genetics, New England Journal of Medicine and Science.
It with immense sadness that I heard about Christopher’s early death – we tried to support him over the past few years but sadly to no avail – that he may rest in peace,
With best regards
Willem H Ouwehand FMedSci
Professor of Experimental Haematology, University of Cambridge
Honorary Consultant in Haematology, Cambridge University Hospitals,
University College London Hospitals and NHS Blood and Transplant
My deepest sympathies to you and your family. I have only known Chris for a short time but I know that Chris was an exceptional bioinformatician and a great human being and will be dearly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this time of grief. May God bless you and your family and give you the strength to carry on from this immense loss.
My deepest condolences for your loss. I knew Chris from working down the hall at the NHS Blood Centre during my PhD. He was always a pleasure to chat to and he helped me out with bioinformatics on several occasions for which I will be forever grateful. The loss comes as a big shock to me too, and I wish you my deepest sympathies from the bottom of my heart.
I am so sorry for your loss. Chris provided support to some of my staff with a complex project. I remember his unfailing kindness and patience in helping my students to understand complex concepts.
Dear Stuart and Marigold,
I’m so sorry for your loss, Chris was a top bloke we thought the
world of him in our team, a great player always great with
advice and free with his time. I had no knowledge of his
struggles with mental illness for which I am sad as I could have
reached out. He will be very sadly missed.
My deepest condolences
Very sorry to hear of the sudden passing of Chris, he was
always friendly and kind with a smile whenever our paths
crossed at the Cambridge Blood Centre where I worked for
the Dept of Haematology at the time. I know he will be
missed by many who had the pleasure of working with him.
My sincere and deepest sympathies to you all as a family
at this difficult time.
I was so very sorry to hear of Chris’ passing. I remember
Chris as a wonderful and kind colleague who contributed so
much to our work on rare diseases. Please accept my
sincerest condolences and the deepest sympathy.
My thoughts and prayers are
with you at this difficult time.
Sending my deepest condolences.
Dear Stuart and Marigold
I am so sorry for your loss and send condolences to you
and your wider family.
I worked with Chris for many years. He was easy going,
kind and used his skills and expertise to work out
difficult problems. He was patient and would always
spend time explaining things when I did not understand.
Please know that Chris’s work in our translation
research team contributed directly to the diagnosis of
hundreds of people with rare diseases and that these
projects continue to influence rare disease diagnostics
in the NHS and in healthcare systems across the world.
“We know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.”
It was an honour and a privilege to have Chris as one of our esteemed members and he will be remembered by all the staff and teachers with Love
Light & Love,
Christopher was only 17 months older than me and when we were children, we always played together. We used to make up imaginary scenarios and take small toys on family weekend walks to incorporate into our make-believe world. This world included the hedge, which became a space ship or the hoods of our coats, which became papooses for our toys. One November, while talking about toys for Christmas, I said to Christopher, “It must be really boring being a grown-up because they don’t play with toys.” And he replied, “Yes.”
Christopher continued his love of playing throughout his life, whether it was cricket, cards or board games with family or friends, playing brought so much enjoyment to him. Christopher was always quite quiet but he loved doing activities in groups, allowing him to interact with others without having to make a lot of conversation.
Christopher was a dear brother to me and we kept our close connection throughout our adult lives. We lived around the corner from each other for a few years in Cambridge and socialised together, whether with his group of friends or mine. He really enjoyed socialising with family and good friends and he had plenty of them because he was very popular with his kind, gentle, generous and humble nature. He touched the hearts of so many. During lock-down we supported each other by doing yoga online together every week, which always lifted our spirits during these troubling times.
Christopher, I miss our moments together but I know that you’ll still be with us all in spirit while exploring the next part of your journey.
I got to know Chris quite recently as he lived next door to a friend of mine at church in Cambridge (Hope Community Church). As we heard from family tributes at his funeral, he was thinking lots about the meaning of life. This led him to come on a Zoom ‘Christianity Explored’ course we were running.
On the first week, we realised we’d met years previously through a former girlfriend of his (my niece). Anyway, each week, he’d join us on Zoom from his sister’s house in Yorkshire. He was really engaged in finding out about Jesus and the Bible. The group on the course got on really well together. There was real fondness for Chris – he was kind, open and vulnerable.
At the end of the course, he wrote to me to say that he had put his trust in Jesus and wanted to continue learning more about what it meant to follow Jesus. After Easter, Chris occasionally joined our church small group on Wednesdays – still on Zoom because of the lockdown – that’s when it didn’t clash with yoga with his sister! We were all very fond of him and were looking forward to getting to know him better when and if he got back to Cambridge. I shared his love of the outside, bird song and cricket.
I am truly thankful to God for having met Chris and can rejoice as a fellow believer because of what Jesus says in the Bible (Gospel of John chapter 11 verses 25 and 26) about those who truly believe in him.
In those verses, Jesus, the Son of God, says: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Thank God, Chris did come to believe this for himself and therefore he will be raised to new and eternal life when Christ returns. Hallelujah.
With love in Jesus,
-Martin and Josette Brooke
Queen’s Rd, Ilkley LS29 9QL
Chris introduced me to walking. He would suggest a short walk in the countryside on a Sunday afternoon which I found difficult but felt the mental benefits of immediately. Due to the mental benefits I have continued walking and it has helped me manage the negative emotions caused by dealing with my uncontrolled epilepsy. Everyday I walk and it makes my mood so much better, so thank you Chris for introducing me to something so simple but so effective.
Love Stephanie Brooke x x