OBITUARIES

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Obituaries


B.C.A. 2002