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Sheila Cross

Also known as: Bunny.

Picture of Sheila Cross

Sheila – or Bunny, as some of us knew her - was a woman of contrasts.
• On the one hand, private, reserved, undemonstrative. On the other, outgoing, warm and with a great shriek of a laugh.
• On the one hand, tolerant, a listener, non-judgemental; on the other, strongly opinionated, forthright and determined to have the last word!
• With her grandchildren, caring, loving and educating – but not taking any nonsense and quelling childhood tantrums in her own special way!
That was Sheila.
Birmingham-born, Sheila was the eldest of her parents’ four children, big sister to Roger, Dee and Steve. Her lifelong friend, Sandra, remembers first meeting 10-year old Sheila on the beach in Ilfracombe when she came down to visit her n Grandma for the summer holidays. Sheila became part of the gang and the two little girls got on famously. From then on, they waited impatiently for those long summer holidays, filling in the months between with letters to and fro. Their friendship strengthened with time. As young mothers, they shared all the joys and woes of their children and in recent years, although not close geographically, Sandra called Sheila every Sunday and Sheila regularly wrote to Sandra. Sandra loved Sheila’s company and the hours they spent catching up on all the news each time they met.
Sheila was beautiful as a young woman and age didn’t diminish that beauty. Her grandchildren say she was always very well-groomed. Her liking for fashion stayed with her, including, despite double hip replacements, niftily modelling a pair of Michelle’s very high heels at Jade’s 18th birthday party!
She was a born teacher, with a wonderful natural gift for imparting knowledge without ever preaching. Jill, her friend and former colleague at Hemingford Grey Primary School recalls how inspirational Sheila was. If a child brought in something to show her, she could turn it into a lesson for the whole class. She had a great understanding of, and love for her pupils and a capacity to remember them all. Sheila was passionate about education and considered reading to be at the very core of all learning. She would read not only to her pupils but also to her grandchildren, instilling in them excitement and love for the written word. Steph well remembers when she was little, her Grandma reading to her from the works of Wilfred Owen, the First World War poet. Challenging stuff for a little girl but those readings gave Steph an enduring love of poetry and all her grandchildren say she gave them a love of words. When Ben was studying for his A levels, Sheila helped him with his history, maths and French. Once a prolific knitter herself, she bought needles and wool and taught little Amy to knit. That urge to teach never left Sheila....
....And neither did her own passion for learning. Whether academic or not, Sheila loved to learn new skills. She took French lessons, learned to ice skate and to tap dance, became very interested in astrology and politics. At 70, she taught herself to use a computer. She was already a fount of knowledge but when Sheila discovered the joys of Google, there was no stopping her! Oh yes, and she mastered the art of texting, amusing her grandchildren no end as she signed herself off ‘G’! Cool Grandma!
As her children grew up, Sheila welcomed new family members. Gill speaks fondly of her mother-in-law and remembers Sheila coming to stay and help when, with Pete away at sea, Michelle was born. ‘A long and angry baby’ said the proud Grandma, with her usual dry humour!
That humour of Sheila’s is something everyone speaks about. All her family and her friends told me of the speed of her wit, her ironic and drily sarcastic comments and that laugh....... very loud and very noticeable! They all remember, too, how very non-PC Sheila could be, the grandchildren often telling her ‘Grandma, you can’t say that!’ Her colleague, Jill, recalls Sheila each afternoon in the staffroom telling outrageously bawdy stories and collapsing laughing as she told them, her laugh ringing out with abandon.
As she grew older, Sheila had her routines. There was the weekly phone call with Sandra of course. And Sue, Ben and Jade always had Sunday lunch with her. On Saturdays, she invariably went to Cambridge to do her shopping – Sue says her mother single-handedly kept Marks and Spencer afloat!
She spent a few holidays with Gill and Pete and the family, even flying for the first time when they went to Lanzarote. Now, Sheila was an infrequent drinker. Jade says her Grandma could get drunk on Christmas cake and, with a glass of wine, she was well away. On that Lanzarote holiday, as they all sat outside, sharing a jug of sangría , Sheila woozily mentioned how strange it was that, this far South, the twinkly stars moved in the sky........then Pete pointed out that what she was looking at was actually a plane! Cue Sheila’s outrageous laugh!
Although she was not a hugely demonstrative woman, Sheila’s love for her family went deep. She was there when needed, looking after Ben, Jade, Steph and Michelle when they were little, acting as unpaid chauffeur when they were bigger, unshockable and tolerant (although as a woman who loved her garden so much, she may have had a little word to say the time that young Jade decapitated all her flowers!). When Ben cooked Christmas Day lunch last year at Sue’s house, his Grandma pronounced it the best Christmas she’d ever had. She helped Sue with Ben more than any Grandma could do, her only Grandson, and took the credit for him getting into University due to her teaching him everything he knew!
After fighting and beating cancer 12 years ago, Sheila made the most of her time. She was active, cycling into town most days. She kept busy with her own interests and family matters and could always be relied upon as an attentive and sympathetic listener. She loved to see who was going past her window – her family called her Dot Cotton! Always on hand to help when needed was Ian, who lived with his Mum. Although they didn’t live in each other’s pockets, Sheila knew she could rely on Ian for so much and they worked together on the lovely garden of which she was so proud.
She was Sue’s rock, ever reliable, always on her side, never losing her temper. Pete says that, without his mother’s influence and guidance, he would not be the man he is today. Ian knows that, just as he was there for her, so Sheila was there for him.
Sheila was so many different things to so many different people. To Sandra, she was the sister she never had, a lovely open and warm person; to her friend Jill, she was amazing, upright, good and kind and still, late in life, with a twinkle in her eye for a good looking man! To her grandchildren she was, simply, a fantastic Grandma, encouraging, congratulating, caring; and to her children, Pete, Ian and Sue, she was their rock, their influence, their support in good times and bad. Without that influence they would not be the people they are today.
In hospital, although things did not go as planned, Sheila said firmly that, as the eldest in her family, she should be the first to go. She had seen children and grandchildren grow and spread their wings; she had had the joy of knowing her great grandchildren; she was so proud of every one of them. Sheila had done her work; in her own words she ‘had had her life’ and now she was ready to let go.
Eternally youthful, funny, witty and smart......and a woman who always wanted the last word!
.....but maybe today, even Sheila would allow that last word to go to the youngest in the family, little Sam, her great grandson, as he looks up to the sky and says ‘That’s Grandma’s star’.
Sheila Irene Cross......Bunny. Educator, stalwart friend and colleague, wonderful Grandma, beloved and much-missed Mum......and a star in Sam’s sky! What a legacy she leaves.
We wish her peace and rest.

Added by: Sue Geeson on 8 January 2013.

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Picture of Sheila Cross.
Picture of Sheila Cross
Picture of Sheila Cross

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