The secretary of Narnia author CS Lewis, who dedicated his life to preserving the author’s legacy, has died aged 89.

Walter Hooper had been suffering from coronavirus.

He served briefly as Lewis’s literary secretary, helping the author of The Chronicles of Narnia answer his letters, before Lewis’s death in 1963.

Mr Hooper, then 33, left a teaching post at the University of Kentucky to take a leading role in managing CS Lewis’s literary estate.

Oxford Mail:

Walter Hooper

He continued to promote the author for the rest of his life.

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He edited more than 30 collections of Lewis’s writing and annotated four volumes of letters, in addition to writing the first authorized biography and a number of studies and reference volumes. In the early years, he played a pivotal role in keeping Lewis in print.

“I hero-worshipped him, and still do,” Hooper said after 30 years. “I can’t think of a better way of spending my life than by making his contribution better known.”

Walter Hooper was born outside of Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1931 and went to study English and education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Oxford Mail:

Walter Hooper with a letter written by CS Lewis

He was drafted into the army in 1953, near the end of the Korean War.

He took CS Lewis’s Miracles with him, keeping it inside his shirt during basic training so he could read it during cigarette breaks.

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Ten years later, as a young academic working on a book about Lewis, he went to meet the man in Oxford. They had tea at Lewis’s home, then beer with the Inklings at a local pub. When it came time to leave, Hooper didn’t want to go.

He extended his stay to help the author answer his mail and then agreed to return officially when he was done with his teaching appointment in Kentucky.

Oxford Mail:

Walter Hooper

That November, Lewis died, and Hooper was asked to return and help with the literary estate.

When he saw a British bookshop clearing out its stock of Lewis’s titles, he decided he needed to fight to keep the works in print and promote Lewis’s legacy. Mr Hooper left his mentor’s Anglican Church in 1988 and converted to Roman Catholicism. He said he thought Lewis might have done the same if he had lived into the 1980s.

In 1997, Hooper finished his largest single contribution to Lewis studies with the 940-page volume, CS. Lewis: A Companion and Guide. One review said: “This readable volume seems to reflect a lifetime of meditating on everything written by Lewis and about him, of talking to those who knew Lewis, and of ruminating upon his own conversations with Lewis during their brief acquaintance.”

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In 2008, Mr Hooper was delighted to raise £34,000 by donating 11 of CS Lewis’s books to the Oxford Oratory Church of St Aloysius in Woodstock Road for its £3m renovation appeal. The books were given to Mr Hooper by the author and three of them were signed.

When the Oxford Mail revealed the sale price, Mr Hooper said: “That’s very impressive - I didn’t expect the books to raise quite so much.”

The renovation work included the construction of a new chapel.

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The same year Mr Hooper was a guest when a blue plaque was unveiled at CS Lewis’s former home The Kilns in Risinghurst.

Mr Hooper died on Monday.