Obituaries

Susan Joan Rothera (née Jenkins)

25th June 1946 – 18th March 2015

SMy dear wife Sue died on 18th March after a long battle against malignant melanoma (skin cancer) which was somewhat ironic given that she always did her best to avoid the sun. She was born at West Kirby in the Wirral, but her father was a travelling salesman so the family moved around. Her primary school years were spent living in Roker, Sunderland, within earshot of both the fine 10 bells and the ‘Roker roar’ from the football ground. They then moved to Hatch End in Middlesex, where her secondary education was at the North London Collegiate School for girls. Apart from her academic achievements she represented the school at tennis, playing in the first pair. She then went to Bristol University, where she read History and Economics, and moved back to London to do a PGCE, doing her teaching practice in Westminster.

She learned to ring at Harrow Weald, which was at that time John Mayne’s tower, although she was taught by George Hart. She continued her ringing at Bristol, with both the University Society and the city ringers, and received much help and encouragement from Albert Tyler. On returning to London she stayed at Harrow Weald vicarage with the family of Derek Bond, who later moved to Essex to become firstly Archdeacon of Colchester, and subsequently Bishop of Bradwell. I was by now working and living in North London, and we met at practices at Harrow Weald and Hendon, where I had been taught to handle a bell by Ruth Foreman.  We started going out together, and in due course I proposed (on my knees!) after a Liverpool University Society Dinner at which I had been a guest speaker. Sue thought it might have been the beer talking, but the engagement was confirmed, and the ring purchased, the following weekend before the Trumpington ringers dinner.

We were married at Harrow Weald by Derek Bond in September 1969, although we had by then moved to Chelmsford when I obtained employment with Essex County Council. Sue taught for a few years at the Plume School in Maldon, and then did home tutoring while our children were still young. Realising there was a shortage of Maths teachers, she took a Maths course and obtained a post at Shenfield School, where she remained for the rest of her career.  She later took a post-graduate Master of Education degree at Cambridge, with an assignment which concentrated particularly on the superior academic results achieved by girls when educated separately from boys, whereas it appeared to make little difference in the case of boys.

We had both joined the Chelmsford Cathedral band of ringers, and Sue was a loyal member of this band for over 40 years. She taught all our four children to ring, learning to handle a bell first on the easy going bells at Great Baddow church, which our back garden overlooks, before they were able to graduate to the physically more challenging bells at the Cathedral. For some years the six of us used to ring as a family before the 9.30am Parish Communion, and we rang a family peal of Minor at Christmas 1993. Sue also taught several other learners at the Cathedral, and was a regular member of the Cathedral band which has won the Essex Association 6-bell Striking Competition a record 11 times.

Sue was not a prolific peal ringer, though she rang more once the children had grown up.  She rang 220 peals in total, including 100 of Maximus, mostly with the Essex 12-bell band.  22 of these were Spliced, and she was a member of the band which built up to 35-Spliced Surprise Maximus in 1999. 118 of her peals were for the Essex Association, followed by 20 for the Ancient Society of College Youths, which she joined in 2004, 14 for the Cambridge University Guild, and 11 for the Bristol University Society. She also took part in all the 8 Rothera family peals which we rang between 2001 and 2013 (the band being augmented to 8 by the addition of my late brother Philip and his son, my nephew, Brian).  Her final peal was back at Harrow Weald in September of last year, 5-spliced Surprise Major conducted by Chris O’Mahoney. She was by now feeling increasingly tired as a result of her illness and the drugs she was taking, but she was determined, and especially glad, to ring this peal as it was the day after our 45th wedding anniversary, at the church where we were married, and our two youngest daughters Janet and Linda also took part. She attended several College Youths’ Annual Dinners and Country Meetings during her 10 years as a member and thoroughly enjoyed her last C.Y. Function, the Country Meeting in Portsmouth, with the splendid dinner on H.M.S. Warrior.

When she retired from teaching, Sue was determined to keep active and became involved in voluntary work, firstly at the Oxfam bookshop in Chelmsford, where because of her love of books and extensive knowledge she was responsible for pricing up the books which had been donated. As a result of Janet then being a member of the St Paul’s Cathedral ringing band, and a conversation she had with John Moses, who had been Provost at Chelmsford Cathedral before moving on to be Dean of St Paul’s, Sue became a volunteer worker there, firstly with the Education Department, taking school parties on guided tours of the Cathedral, and also being responsible for arranging and co-ordinating these visits. She later qualified as a full Cathedral Guide, able to take adult tours, and became a member of the Tuesday team. Her love of history, experience as a teacher and thorough preparation meant that she was a guide who was loved and highly respected by her colleagues. In recent years she had joined the Company of Educators, had been admitted to the Freedom of the City of London, and had received an invitation to a Queen’s Garden Party at the Palace this summer, which sadly she did not live to accept. She also hugely enjoyed being a Gamesmaker at the 2012 London Olympics, and while being responsible for organising transport to the various venues for competitors and celebrities she felt highly honoured to escort the Queen of Denmark to the Copperbox for the handball competition.

While the children were growing up the family had holidayed all over Europe with their touring caravan, and in addition to the usual relaxation and leisure activities Sue always ensured that we would visit interesting places and increase their knowledge of history and geography. More recently Sue and I had travelled to many parts of the world, either on self organised fly-drive tours to the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland and South Africa, or guided tours to less straightforward areas such as China, India, Egypt, the Andes, and trekking in Nepal. We usually rang at a few towers in those countries where this was possible, and Sue was always keen to visit historic battlefields, such as those of the War of Independence and the Civil War in the U.S.A., the Boer and Zulu Wars in S.  Africa, and closer to home, Agincourt, Waterloo, and Vimy Ridge in the Ardennes.

When first diagnosed with skin cancer she underwent operations to remove various lumps, and was prescribed chemotherapy drugs in an attempt to stop the melanomas from spreading.  During that time, apart from becoming more tired and suffering some side effects, she was still well enough to be able to continue with a relatively normal life, including ringing and her St Paul’s work, and we managed to visit some new destinations such as Gibraltar, Vienna and South Africa, including the Nelson Mandela museum. For someone who was so knowledgeable and articulate, it was desperately sad for her, the family and the friends who kindly visited her, when in the last few weeks, as a result of secondary tumours in her brain, she gradually lost her ability to think clearly and talk rationally, though we all clung to the hope and belief that she could still hear and understand what was being said to her, and we must remember instead the many wonderfully happy times we spent with her, as a wife, mother and grandmother.

On 1st April, after a family burial in Great Baddow churchyard, a moving, uplifting and happy Service of Thanksgiving was held in Chelmsford Cathedral, preceded by halfmuffled Stedman Cinques, which was her wish, and attended by some 230 people from her various areas of activity. Many tributes were received, in the form of cards, letters and e-mails, saying what a kind, caring, generous, cheerful, positive, inspirational and courageous person she was, but many of them simply said that she was just a lovely lady. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her, but may she now rest in peace.

DAVID ROTHERA

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