My aunt, Rosalie Whiteley

A couple of weeks ago, I had a phone call from Mum that was far worse than I’d expected: my aunt had been due to go to hospital for an urgent scan, but hours before she was due to go she had collapsed at home. She was dangerously ill and the hospital summoned Mum from Cheltenham. I arrived in Oxford at about 4: she was alive but unconscious, and passed away peacefully an hour or so later.

Rosalie's favourite photograph of herself, taken by a passer-by in Oxford's botanic gardens.

Rosalie’s favourite photograph of herself, taken by a passer-by in Oxford’s botanic gardens.

Rosalie enjoyed photography and had a good eye for a picture. This one from the Thames near Oxford was published in the Methodist Recorder

It’s very easy to have a one-eyed view of one’s relatives – but Rosalie was someone who made a big impression on her community in her dedication to serving others. This sprang out of a deep but uncomplicated faith: throughout her life she was committed to the Methodist church. One lady wrote in a card: “I have lost a very dear friend. When I went through bad times – operations and the death of my husband – she was always there for me”.

She’d been a primary school teacher in Birmingham, and later became the head of Donington Infant School on the edge of Oxford. This was a job which seemed to have more than its fair share of challenges! In 1972 the school moved to a new site, and was renamed Larkrise (because of the skylarks which used to sing over the school fields early in the morning). A year later large parts of the school were burned down in an arson attack. It was two years before the school was back to normal.

We recieved a lovely tribute to her from Jenny Hood, the lady who was her administrator for many years.

It was my privilege to work closely with Rosalie until her retirement in July 1988.  Throughout those years I learned to respect her as a person of total integrity and absolute commitment to the work she had to do. She was devoted to the children in her care, and set a wonderful example to her staff.  She was a person who demonstrated amazing energy and unbelievable humour even when life was very challenging.  She demonstrated care for the children, their families, her staff and those people in the wider community whose paths crossed hers.  It was a privilege to work with her.

Rosalie was inspired by the botanic gardens in Oxford and took many photos there.

Rosalie was inspired by the botanic gardens in Oxford and took many photos there.

She served as a steward (aka church warden / elder) in Kennington Methodist church for many years – but for her it was much more than an administrative role. She took prayer very seriously: when Jen and I visited her in the summer she was enthusing about John Pritchard’s books on intercession.

Rosalie also had a prayer wall in the entrance of the church which she took great pride in creating and maintaining. The one that she’d most recently produced epitomised her outlook on life. On the left were newspaper cuttings about the recent flooding in Haiti; on the right were her own photos of autumn colours.

Rosalie's most recent display board for prayer - showing the floods in Haiti and autumn colours.

Rosalie’s most recent display board for prayer – showing the floods in Haiti on one side and autumn colours on the other.

I’ll always remember Rosalie as someone who was very generous (she gave me my present car at a time when I had very little spare cash), who took a great interest in what I was doing, and who often liked to have a laugh about the silliness of life. One of her neighbours wrote, “She had a good sense of humour and many times I can remember her trying to stifle her giggles.” Mum and Rosalie were very close and although they were quite different in character, they were always there for each other. She will be greatly missed.

Rosalie in reflective mood, while on holiday with mum in Norway.

Rosalie in reflective mood, taken by Mum while they were on holiday in Norway.


4 thoughts on “My aunt, Rosalie Whiteley

  1. I am sorry for your loss. I didn’t know your aunt well as we only met at the local bus stop, but we had a few chats and laughs together. I will miss her company. She was a lovely lady.

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