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Ex-teacher and priest killed in crash

07:59 24 March 2006

A SMALL rural community was in mourning yesterday following the death of a former teacher and church figure.

The Rev Stephanie Neal died in a road accident at Shadingfield, near Halesworth, at about 7.

A SMALL rural community was in mourning yesterday following the death of a former teacher and church figure.

The Rev Stephanie Neal died in a road accident at Shadingfield, near Halesworth, at about 7.30pm on Wednesday.

Mrs Neal, 71, was crossing the A145 London Road between Beccles and Halesworth when she was involved in a collision with a Mazda car.

She was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, although it is not clear if she died from her injuries or if she suffered a heart attack after the collision.

Mrs Neal was a popular member of the village community and was also well known in the Beccles area.

For many years she had been a French language teacher at the Sir John Leman High School at Beccles and was ordained after she retired from the teaching profession.

David Grief, deputy headteacher of Sir John Leman High School, said: “She worked hard at her teaching and she had high expectations of students.

“Many, especially in the sixth form, have benefited from her own skill and expertise at modern languages.”

Mrs Nelson was actively involved in a number of organisations in the Shadingfield and Willingham area and was also a supporter of local choral music and the Beccles Twinning Association..

The Rev Paul Nelson, rector of the Hundred River benefice that includes Shadingfield, said: “She was a person of enormous public-spiritedness and someone who threw herself whole heartedly into all sorts of activities, not just in church.”

Mr Nelson also praised the work Mrs Neal carried out for the church in the Shadingfield area.

“She had a very caring ministry to families in the area, many of whom she knew very well,” he said.

Mrs Neal, a widow, lived on her own in Chartres Piece, Willingham.

Norma Butler, also of Chartres Piece, said: “We cannot really believe this has happened.

“Stephanie was known and loved by everyone in the close and was always ready to help in any way she could.

“I am disabled but she would come to my home to give me communion if I could not get to church.”

It is believed Mrs Neal was on her way to a parish meeting in the village hall when she was involved in the accident.

The collision occurred at the junction of the A145 and Sotterley Road, just a few hundred yards from Mrs Neal's home.

Parish council chairman Nick Bromley said that parishioners were worried about the number of accidents along the stretch of the A145 through the Shadingfield and Willingham communities.

Although there is a 30mph speed limit there are calls for further improvements to be made.

One local resident, who asked not to be named, said the junction of the A145 and Sotterley Road was poorly lit as there was only one streetlight in the vicinity.

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