Tributes paid to former Leiston librarian and Brown Owl

Shirley Skelcher

Shirley Skelcher from Leiston has died aged 87 - Credit: Supplied by the family

A Leiston stalwart, librarian and teacher has died at the age of 87.  

Shirley Skelcher had lived in Leiston for more than 50 years and worked in a number of community roles in the town during that time.

She was born in Croydon, South London and was the first child of Ann and Lionel Pearce.  

The family moved to Fareham, in Hampshire, where Mr Pearce managed a haberdashery shop.  

The town became subject to night-time bombing raids by German planes during the Second World War.  

Mrs Skelcher recalled being woken up in the middle of the night by her mother and being taken to an Anderson shelter in the back garden.  

Her most treasured memory from the war, however, was of her Uncle Bern. She had returned from a shopping trip with her mother to find him lying on the lawn in their back garden in his army uniform while on leave.  

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But that treasured memory turned to sadness when he was later shipped out to Singapore, captured by the Japanese and forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. The family never saw him again. 

In later years, Mrs Skelcher attended VJ Day services held at the Long Shop Museum in Leiston.  

Despite the shortage of spectacles during the war, and her poor eyesight, Shirley studied hard and excelled at sports like long jump, sprinting and hockey. She was also a county schools athletics champion. 

It was on a camping trip to Cornwall that she met her husband Barrie.  

Shirley and Barrie Skelcher

Shirley Skelcher and her husband Barrie - Credit: Submitted by family

After living and working elsewhere, the couple moved to Leiston when Mr Skelcher became health physicist at Sizewell A.  

The couple had three daughters and remained together until Mr Skelcher died from motor neurone disease nearly six years ago.   

Mrs Skelcher worked as a nursery school teacher, and helped establish the local playgroup and later became the town’s librarian. 

She was also Brown Owl to the 1st Leiston Brownie pack for many years. 

She volunteered at the Long Shop Museum, and helped found the Alde Valley Suffolk Family History Group. 

She loved living in Leiston, which she thought had the best of all worlds to offer. 

Mrs Skelcher died peacefully in Knodishall on April 30. 

She is survived by her three daughters, Angela, Clare and Mary, as well as four grandchildren, Bronte, Simi, Jay and Sam. 

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