A FAMILY has paid tribute to a former Basingstoke headteacher who sadly passed away at the age of 91 while living in a care home in Southampton.

Angela Dolores Stafford, best known in Basingstoke as a teacher at St Anne's Catholic Primary School and a head teacher at Marnel Community Infants School in Popley, was a strong woman who lived her life well.

She retired to live in West Cork, Ireland in 1990 and moved to Southampton in 2018.

Her daughter Clare Bee, who lives in Australia now, said her mum was a remarkable and strong woman.

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Clare said: “My mum forged a career as a headteacher while raising five children, in a time when career women were still a new phenomenon, without the ‘mod-cons’ of modern living that we rely on today.”

Born in September 1932 in Belfast, Angela's journey of influence began early on.

Basingstoke Gazette: Angela in her young daysAngela in her young days (Image: Contributed)

At the age of 17, she ventured to London with her parents, embarking on a path that would shape countless lives.

Her passion for music led her to the Royal College of Music, where she honed her skills in piano before transitioning to teacher training, a decision that would set the stage for her career.

In 1956, Angela embarked on a new chapter of her life, exchanging vows with her beloved husband.

Together, they traversed continents, residing in Lagos, Nigeria, where Angela not only welcomed her first child but later taught in the local school.

“It was somewhat of an eye-opener for her,” said Clare.

Angela and her husband bought their first house in South Ham in 1958, while still living in Lagos, but moved home to the UK permanently in 1964.

In September of that year, she started teaching at St Anne’s RC Infant School, where she taught for several years, before teaching at some other schools.

She later became a deputy head at Chineham Park Infant School.

During this time she had five children, Jonathan, Catherine, Georgina, Timothy and Clare.

The family moved to live in Chineham in 1969.

In 1972, Angela started the role of the first headteacher at Marnel Infants School in Popley, a role she served for the next 17 years.

Basingstoke Gazette: Angela StaffordAngela Stafford (Image: Contributed)

This was a new school and brought many challenges, working in a newly established large and growing estate, housing many people who were moving out from London.

“Mum had many stories about her time at Marnel, but overwhelmingly her stories were of good times, working with parents and teachers who were committed to the positive education of children from all backgrounds,” Clare recalled.

“While at Marnel, mum was keen to join the community together, recognising the importance of the school within a new community. The school held annual Summer Fayres, Sports Days, Easter Bonnet Parades, Harvest Festivals, Christmas Nativity plays and always had a themed float in the Basingstoke Carnival.

“Mum thought it was important to celebrate every child’s birthday, with many children remembering a fake birthday cake with real candles with every child who had a birthday that week called up at the weekly assembly, so that the whole school could sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them and blow out the candles. Mum was especially keen on encouraging children to read and enjoy books, giving out headteachers’ gold and silver stars for good reading and putting aside time for children to come and read personally to her.”

In 1989, Angela embarked on a well-deserved retirement, embracing a new chapter alongside her husband in South West Cork, Ireland, which was a very important place for them.

In her final years, Angela returned to Southampton, where she needed full-time care.

She quietly departed this world on Saturday evening, January 6.

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A cremation service will be held at Southampton Crematorium at 9.30am on Thursday, February 8, followed by a memorial service in Goleen Parish Church at 11am on Monday, February 19.

All are welcome to join the cremation service online at: watch.obitus.com (username: suha8606, password: 181634)

In lieu of flowers, donations to guidedogs.ie in Angela's memory are warmly welcomed.