An obituary is a difficult task; writing one for a much admired colleague and later much loved friend, is a mountain to climb.
Chris (née Marsden) graduated from Girton College Cambridge in 1954 with a double first in Natural Sciences. She went on to St Thomas’ Hospital Biochemistry Dept. She returned to the North in 1956 being awarded an M.Sc by the University of London. She began work at Waterloo Park School and married Brian Parr in 1958. Christopher and Elizabeth were born in the following years.
After part time teaching she began work full time at MTGS in 1970. She was appointed Senior Mistress in 1976 and became the School’s first Deputy Head in 1981.
I first met Chris in 1987 when she ‘interviewed’ me as a candidate to succeed Margaret Davies. She was pleasant, fair, rigorous and thorough. Looking back I realise how very importantly the governors regarded her opinion.
With this ability she brought other outstanding personal attributes. One colleague wrote “among all my memories of working at MTGS, Chris stands out as someone whom I could both like and respect for every kind of reason; for her academic rigour which we took so much for granted, her constantly outstanding administration skills which she made seem entirely effortless and for her unfailing personal integrity and quiet kindness.”
Yes Chris was an outstanding Deputy Head, but, and equally important, she was a loving daughter, wife, mother and grandmother.
A friend observed “I only met Chris on a few occasions but she left an indelible impression on me. She was invariably smiling with a sense of goodwill and attentive to those around. On one occasion, at a local restaurant, I remember her surrounded by her grandchildren – the centre of attention. They were full of laughter, chatter, respect and affection. I was very struck by her place in their lives.”
In the academic year 1988-89 Chris lost both her mother and her husband, Brian, and gained her first grandchild, William. As a result she postponed her retirement which was a great benefit both to myself and to the School.
She organised some unique moments in the school’s history. The 100th anniversary which we all, pupils, parents, staff and friends shared with the Archbishop of Canterbury in Liverpool Cathedral in 1988 stands out. I later discovered Chris had managed to acquire the actual copy of the Archbishop Runcie’s speech that day – special words. She also masterminded the Royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1988.
In the many letters and cards received after Chris’s death some observations are repeated – her smile, her sense of humour, meticulous attention to detail, generosity, integrity and elegance.
During her 23 years of retirement she designed and planted 2 gardens from scratch, or should I say mud and stone!
Her determination to master all aspects of IT (putting me to shame) and her love of music – following her Grade 8 violin at school – were all aspects of these very active years, as was her regular attendance at Church reflecting her quiet Christian faith. She gained further fulfilment from being a loving grandmother to her 5 grandchildren.
She and I walked and explored the Dolomites and Drakensburg, Alps and Pyrenees, Andes and Himalayas, Arctic to Antarctic, and the Tropics. We saw many sights and sites of this wonderful world we all inhabit, all described in her detailed logs and diaries and illustrated by her wonderful photographs.
Appropriate, therefore, to finish with an appreciation from an American student who passed us on the Everest trail. As he loped past the 14 of us, he noticed Chris – who was at 79, many years older than the rest of the party. He stopped, “Excuse me ma’am; can I ask you how old you are?” On being informed, he shouted with disbelief and wonder – “God bless you ma’am, God bless you!”, and he picked her up in a big hug.
A wonderful memory of a very special daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, colleague and friend.