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Teacher with a passion for acting

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Shirley Christopher has been remembered as a remarkable woman who dedicated her life to helping others.

Friends and family yesterday paid tribute to the former teacher, who died earlier this month at the age of 84.

Her son, D. Lloyd Christopher said: “She was very calm, giving. She would go out of her way to help others.

“She was always putting people first before herself, no matter who they were, which is sometimes a good thing and a bad thing.”

Ms Christopher, a grandmother of three, was born in August 1933, and grew up near West Pembroke School.

She married her late husband Desmond Christopher in 1962 and had three children including Mr Christopher and his older sisters Laurie Richardson and Leslee Christopher.

Mr Christopher said his mother, of Happy Valley Road in Devonshire, loved to travel and recalled fond memories of family trips.

He added: “She was always there for me when I was growing up and she always allowed me to make decisions about my future.”

And while she could be strict, Mr Christopher said she was always there to give him that extra push and guidance.

“I'm going to miss my mom, and I am glad that I was able to spend the amount of time that I did with her.”

He said she also did a lot of acting in college but decided to go into teaching when she came back to Bermuda although she kept up her passion for acting.

Mr Christopher added: “Her teaching career spanned 48 years. She started out at Central, which is now Victor Scott, and she spent some time at Prospect Primary and the majority of her time at Purvis.

“She enjoyed everything that she did, especially the teaching and the plays. She wrote, directed, acted. She will be missed.”

Ms Christopher also played a big role in her church, St John's Church in Pembroke, and good friend Una Lewis described her as a “remarkable woman” who always put others first and loved children.

They met when Mrs Lewis's son started attending Sunday School at the church, where Ms Christopher was teaching, and they were later members of the vestry together and often teamed up for other projects.

Mrs Lewis said: “She was a lot of fun, very active with our guild and one of the first to volunteer for anything.

“No task was too menial for her, even if it meant washing the dishes. Whatever needed to be done she was always there to offer her services.”

Mrs Lewis said her friend helped out with many church activities, from being a church warden to flower arrangements to fundraising and working in the thrift shop.

She was also a Eucharistic minister and was on the rota for scripture readings. And she was a member of the church's sewing guild and would knit and sew for hospital patients.

Mrs Lewis added: “I don't think there was anything much that went on in the church that she wasn't a part of at some point of her life. She was a very humble, willing worker.”

Other projects Ms Christopher dedicated her time to included volunteering with the Salvation Army soup run and at the Westmeath Residential and Nursing Care Home.

Mrs Lewis said: “Every week she would read a Bible story to the residents there and they really enjoyed listening to her read.”

She also attended line dancing classes twice a week at the Pembroke Community Club and performed at events.

Mrs Lewis added: “She never missed a beat. I was really impressed with her as far as her ability to do the things she did at her age.”

Ms Christopher was interviewed for The Royal Gazette's Unsung Heroes feature in 2015 and spoke about her many community projects.

She said at the time: “I never think about it, I just go ahead and do what I have to do. If someone needs something, I am right there.

“I guess it gives me a sense of helping others. My philosophy in life is ‘others', so I'm helping others.”

She also spoke of her love for children and her time teaching at Purvis Primary.

Karen Trott, a P2 teacher at Purvis Primary, described Ms Christopher as a “fantastic, wonderful soul, who loved to teach, inspire and bring the best out of you”.

She said: “Teachers such as Shirley Christopher helped mould many great people in our community today. She allowed ordinary students to do extraordinary things.”

Ms Trott added that Ms Christopher always made time for pupils even after she retired and was part of the Youth Net Programme.

She said: “She may not have known this, or she may have, but the children loved her. They looked forward to seeing her every Friday.”

“Every time she walked in the door, one student would spot her and go outside in the foyer to give her a hug. This went on every time she came, right up until our Christmas break in December.”

Ms Trott added: “We celebrate Mrs Christopher for all her hard work and dedication to education over the many years at Purvis Primary School.”

“Thank you to her children for sharing their mom with all of us at Purvis.”

The funeral for Ms Christopher will be held at St John's Church in Pembroke at 2pm today.

Selfless: teacher Shirley Christopher
Shirley Christopher (Photograph supplied)
Shirley Christopher at the appreciation lunch for the Sewing Guild members in 2017 (Photograph supplied)

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Published January 15, 2018 at 3:56 pm (Updated January 15, 2018 at 5:18 pm)

Teacher with a passion for acting

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