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Obituary - Sarah Stonehouse 1972-2011

Sarah Stonehouse was a woman of obsessions. Everything she did - whether becoming a primary teacher, collecting beer labels or ringing church bells - she did with single-minded enthusiasm and unfailing attention to detail.

Sarah Elizabeth Hunt was born in January 1972. Their daughter had barely begun primary school when Mr and Mrs Hunt were informed that she would make a good teacher: she was forever ordering other children around.

She did indeed train as a teacher, at Charlotte Mason College in Ambleside, Cumbria. Her first job was at Rothley Primary in Leicester, where she remained for 17 years.

She was a woman of intense loyalties. A keen ale-drinker, she would travel to every beer festival she could, pasting labels into a scrapbook and giving each beer a mark out of 10. When the craze for Beanie Babies hit, she collected them assiduously; she later did the same with Pandora charm bracelets.

Perhaps her greatest obsession was bell-ringing. Having been baptised as an adult, she joined the bell-ringers of her local church. There she met Ian Stonehouse; they married in December 1997. Together, they spent almost every weekend and holiday travelling the country - and occasionally the world - ringing bells. Mrs Stonehouse kept a careful note of every bell she had rung, along with its bell tower details and logistics.

She was a traditional teacher: calm, consistent, organised and with clear boundaries. She had her rules and did not deviate from them. As a result, challenging boys regularly flourished in her classroom. One autistic child, for example, was transformed from a notoriously difficult case into a thriving pupil after a year with Mrs Stonehouse.

But she was also childlike in her exuberances. She had nicknames for every teacher and, as school trips officer, she was often more excited than pupils about forthcoming days out. She loved adventure: colleagues reluctant to take pupils caving or boating knew that they would always find a willing replacement in Mrs Stonehouse.

Like many teenagers of the 1980s, she had owned a Yamaha keyboard and she could pick up tunes merely by listening to them. Later, she taught herself to play the piano and she regularly accompanied pupils during concerts.

Though she had a good singing voice, she was self-effacing. Her headteacher knew that the only way to encourage her to sing was to insist that pupils would benefit; simply praising her voice did not have the same effect. But she ultimately embraced singing with typical enthusiasm: her voice was regularly heard trailing through school corridors.

Following an Antipodean bell-ringing trip in 2009, she was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. This was removed but, in September last year, she was given a terminal diagnosis. Still a committed Christian, she regarded death as her biggest adventure yet. Sarah Stonehouse died on 13 December.

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