Adored headteacher buried in stunning coffin covered in drawings by her pupils
Sue East was only 58 when she passed away in December, after a battle with cancer. The day she died, she wrote a letter to her pupils, in which she explained that she was "going to die soon," thanking them for their "joy and friendship".
On Thursday this week, hundreds of students, parents, and colleagues came out to pay tribute to her life, with pupils covering her coffin with their drawings as she was laid to rest.
Joint Deputy Headteachers at St Andrew’s Church School in Bath, Tam Stephen and Jayne Rochford-Smith, paid tribute to their inspirational friend. Referencing Sue's love of Star Trek, Tam said:
"We often refer to ourselves as a family, with Sue as Captain Kirk at the helm of the Starship Enterprise. Sue was an extraordinary friend and colleague to us all at St Andrews. There was wholehearted agreement that she was bonkers, as all brilliant people are.
"We all agree that Sue made a difference. She campaigned for creativity, inclusion, diversity and equality. One cannot help but fall in love with her and the school she so proudly led. Sue exuded huge love for everyone in her care."
The funeral, held at Bath Abbey, held almost 700 attendees. Pupils sang during the event, then covered Mrs. East's coffin with drawings of butterflies, fairies, hearts, and rainbows. Students were said to have described their headteacher as "kind," "fun," "the best teacher" who "taught us to believe in ourselves" and "sprinkled fairy dust everywhere".
In her goodbye letter to her students, Sue quoted C.S Lewis’ novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. "Never forget there is fairy dust to be found in every situation, no matter how difficult," she wrote.
Her three children, Susannah, Josiah and John, added to the touching tributes made to their mother. John, her eldest son, celebrated her life, noting how she would affectionally refer to her kids as "creatures":
"Mum lived freely and selflessly. I am humbled to have received a love so unconditional. Mum didn’t just love us, she loved all the “creatures” she worked with.
"They were here today celebrating mum’s life. She would not think she is more important than anyone here. I would encourage you to live your lives with love to all people."
Her daughter Susannah, also spoke about her mother, explaining that her mother's spirit will live on. "She said that death is not to be feared, for it is only coming home. She said how even in the most difficult situations, you find fairy dust." she said. "I loved you to the moon and back. I miss you. I look forward to seeing you on whichever shore you find yourself on."
Her youngest son, Josiah, joked that she would more likely tell him off for choosing to write a speech for her funeral rather than working on his dissertation. "She taught me that learning is more important than exams and numbers on spreadsheets, to question what you believe and adapt," Josiah said. "She taught me how to live life and accept death."
While Sue was taken from her loved ones far too soon, the phenomenal turnout to her funeral proves that she led a full life, and spent her time as best she could.
If you're interested in helping out the community that Sue cared for so deeply, you can donate to a GoFundMe campaign set up in her honour. The campaign hopes to raise money to refurbish her school's playground, a project that was close to Sue's heart. You can read more about it here.