Obituary - Judy Townsend 1937-2011

28th October 2011 at 01:00

When Judy Townsend moved to Shrewsbury, she worried that she would struggle to make a life for herself in a town where she knew no one. By the time she died, it was a rare local who did not know the primary-school teacher, magistrate, consummate fundraiser and modern-day patron of the arts.

Born in Norfolk in February 1937, Judy spent her childhood delivering lessons to imaginary pupils in the shed at the bottom of the family garden. After grammar school, she studied English at University College London. Here, she met fellow student Alan Townsend and together they explored London, stealing kisses on the Bakerloo line. In 1959, after both had qualified as teachers, the couple married and set up home in Shrewsbury, Alan's home town.

Despite her initial fears, the new Mrs Townsend quickly found work at a local secondary modern. She remained there for two years, before taking time off to raise Sally, Jane and Joanna. When Joanna started at Coleham Primary, the headteacher asked Mrs Townsend to volunteer with two children from the school's partially hearing unit. This led to one term's cover as a classroom teacher for the unit.

She was hooked. Eventually, she became the first teacher to study for Manchester University's new qualification for teaching the deaf, and then head of Coleham's partially hearing unit.

Initially, pupils were shackled to their desks by a complex hearing system of cables and wires. But Mrs Townsend was determined that they should have access to new "phonic ear" hearing aids. And so she embarked on a fundraising drive, successfully raising enough money for the new equipment.

The arts were a keen interest. She staged school plays, as well as holding craft workshops and poetry-writing sessions. She also ran the school ornithology club and regularly took children on school trips. On one occasion a small boy ran through a slurry pool, losing his shoes in its depths. It was left to Mrs Townsend to fetch them.

Telling such stories, her eyes would light up and she would chuckle throatily. But she could be steely and determined when occasion arose: for 28 years she served as a magistrate, including four years as bench chair. For such an artistic person, a colleague commented, her organisational skills were remarkable: anyone hoping to challenge her opinions needed clear evidence and determination to match her own.

She retired in 1993; 10 years later, she established the Belle Vue festival to celebrate local arts. This enabled her to continue her fundraising work: over the years, the festival raised more than #163;15,000 for a local hospice.

It was to be the hospice where she spent her own final days. In 2010, she developed mouth and neck cancer. Nil By Mouth, a collection of writing and sketches about the experience, raised money for cancer relief.

Judy Townsend died at the age of 74.

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