HELEN TOWNSEND 29/09/1967-15/06/2002
Helen was born in Silverstone with a benign brain tumour and, in 1967,
wasn't given much chance of surviving. Fortunately due to pioneering
techniques at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, they were able to perform
a successful operation.
Helen had a strict upbringing and was well disciplined. She was a quiet
but confident girl.
After attending Lickey Grange School for the Blind in Bromsgrove,
Worcestershire, Helen surprised everybody in passing the entrance exam for The
Royal National College in Hereford where she met the author of this obituary,
Stephen Thacker on 14 February 1986. I immediately was encapsulated by her
and it wasn't long before I wanted to ask her out. Being a romantic I set
upon the idea of sending her an anonymous card - it was Valentine's Day!
About a week later after the half term holiday, Helen was busy reading in the
Library at RNC about 8pm. I was there too and we were alone. Helen
said goodnight for the evening and, just as she was going, I asked if she had
received any Valentines Cards. She said "I've got a secret
admirer!" I said "Only one!" When she told me she
didn't know who it was, I said "Put your hand out and you'll get scorched
by your secret admirer".
From then on our relationship grew and grew. Helen was the quiet one,
whereas I am a bit noisier. So there we had it an opposite but well suited
relationship. I enjoyed my chess, whereas Helen enjoyed hospital radio and
the chance to help people in whatever way she could - she was always a good
listener and had very good hearing, far better than mine. We both enjoyed
reading, both being members of the National Library for the Blind and Torch
Trust. Helen always loved attending not only the Sunday church service but
also events organised by St Mary's Church and I always enjoyed going with her.
In 1987 I arranged for Helen to come on one of what was to be many B.C.A. chess
events she attended with me and this was at Torquay. This was to be the
start of many events we joyfully shared together and broadened Helen's life,
because before she met me, she hardly went out at all. I also met her
parents and she in turn met mine.
Unfortunately, Helen was rather unlucky in getting work, she did have a short
spell working for Northampton Council but they always had machinery problems,
and when Helen had to leave her temporary accommodation in 1996, I asked her to
come and live in Peterborough where she took up voluntary work: working for The
Volunteer Bureau and most notably The "Broken Barriers Project"
(please feel free to obtain a copy of 19 June's edition of "The
Peterborough Evening Telegraph" for more on this project).
In 1989 I started work and Helen was so helpful in giving me the encouragement
to achieve this and the strength and confidence to stick with a job on many days
when I just might have given up.
Over the years, Helen and I have attended so many events and been on lots of
holidays too numerous to mention in a short appraisal of what we have achieved
in Helen's short but never dull 34 years. Some of you will be aware of the
long list of places we have been fortunate to go to and the many pictures as we
pass through places we have had described by willing volunteers to us: places in
England and Wales (there aren't many we haven't been to in the list of well
known cities and towns), quite a few places in France (Paris and Normandy more
than once), Belgium (I know we've been to Ypes together if not other places in
that country), The Netherlands (Amsterdam and Haaksbergen), Switzerland and
Lichtenstein (Helen has relations in her uncle Richard and Auntie Christine in
this part of the world), Austria (we had a wonderful time in Igls on The
Austrian Tyrol); Kork, Hamburg and Treeber
Helen had not only to contend with me and her sight problems over the years, she
had to suffer the loss of both her parents through Cancer and she did this with
fortitude, strength and courage.
Over the last 8 months Helen's health went downhill, but she never stopped
smiling or gave up without a fight. She wasn't a chess player but she
loved socialising and chatting with people and I am sure that those B.C.A.
people that knew her - indeed anyone who had the privilege of getting to know
her - will be saddened by her loss.
Her funeral was well attended on 20 June by not just the requisite families but
by local, national and international friends. I'm afraid I broke down at
the end of the church service, but I will always treasure Helen's love and lots
of happy memories.
Anyone that wants to read about holidays in Sri Lanka and New Zealand and two
fairly lengthy accounts of our two visits to The Holy Land, please feel free to
contact Steve Thacker.
Steve Thacker 25 June 2002