Cheryl Newnham obituary

Born 1947, died 2011. A graduate of the School of Languages and Cultures.

Obituary from Cheryl's husband.

I first met Cheryl Massey, strangely, at a night school class for women’s tailoring in January 1972. She taught modern languages at Dartmouth High School, West Bromwich, and came into the circle of friends of my mother who taught needlework and dressmaking. My mother had been teaching 20 years at night school and invited her to join the class. I was the driver and Cheryl imagined that I could match my mother’s couture of clothes of her own making but she was disappointed as my standards were not smart but scruffy and bearded. And yet it was our first step into the future, we became companions and shared our social lives; I had a spread of interests but she was a teacher of foreign languages and thus held a golden key to the door of the treasury of French and Spanish culture.

From her village of Pelsall north of Walsall she entered the University in September 1966 and graduated after 3 years in Latin, French & Spanish. It was a bold decision that her first year teaching post would be in France at the Lycee Mixte of Le Dorat near Limoges. Our holidays led her back to France and I was introduced to her former teaching colleagues and friends and to the beautiful village of Le Dorat that has a huge Romanesque abbey at its heart. More holidays followed, a neverending discovery of French treasures such as the vast alignment of Neolithic stones & dolmens at Carnac in Brittany, the Gothic cathedrals of Normandy and the beautiful Palace of Versailles.

We were married in July 1973 surrounded by our families including all twelve of my nieces & nephews, friends, teachers and pupils from Dartmouth HS. Cheryl took up teaching at Walsall Blue Coat School and became departmental head a year later. Our first child, Sally Gisele, was born 1976 and two years later came Matthew Richard. We lived at Wednesbury where Cheryl & Sally sang in the choir of our church St Paul’s. Sally studied German, Economics & European Business Studies at Surrey University when we changed houses and moved to Wolverhampton in 1993.

By now Cheryl was on the teaching staff at Darlaston Community School and after 20 years left for her new post at Highfields School Wolverhampton that commenced September 2002. But during her first term she began to lose her concentration and then fainted while shopping in a supermarket and was taken into hospital. After much care in New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham we learned that she suffered from an extremely rare form of cancer called insulinoma whose effects are similar to those of diabetes. This meant a different way of life, she took early retirement in 2003 and we learned how to respond to her many episodes of coma but it became manageable with special drugs.

Cheryl was able to adapt to the limitations her sickness imposed and displayed extraordinary courage and stoicism throughout. She made many friends at St Michael’s Church, Tettenhall, took particular interest in children & young people, encouraged their self confidence and became the leader of the local group of The Mothers’ Union. The cancer spread to her liver and she underwent two operations at the QE, the first in 2003 and the second 2009 but it was a slow recovery after the last. The pains and symptoms got worse and palliative medicine with doses of morphine was the only way forward for her.

The big event of the New Year 2011 was Sally’s marriage and we made ourselves a promise that it would go to the top of our agenda. The wedding was in Hamburg when she married Timo Erik Wandrey on 8th July. The time had come for another hospital stay and Cheryl went into Compton Hospice two weeks later. But there was more to come of the wedding at a reception here in Wolverhampton at the Masonic Hall on the 30th July. A special taxi brought Cheryl, in the charge of her sisters Sandra and Diane, to the middle table where we all gave her a standing ovation. We were entertained by a piano, bassoon & soprano trio led by Clive Russell who played Cheryl’s special piano request, the wonderful Fantaisie Impromptu by Chopin. In the following months we comforted Cheryl every day in the modern wing of the Hospice until she died peacefully in the presence of myself, Sandra & Diane on the morning of Tuesday 6th September.