Suffolk teacher, 38, dies after illness

THE parents of a Suffolk teacher and tennis coach who died from an aggressive brain tumour have told how he never complained about the illness which “gradually bore down and overtook him”.

Simon Tomlinson

THE parents of a Suffolk teacher and tennis coach who died from an aggressive brain tumour have told how he never complained about the illness which “gradually bore down and overtook him”.

Stephen Bell, 38, was a highly regarded PE teacher and worked tirelessly with youngsters in his role as head coach of Felixstowe Tennis Club.

After gaining a tennis scholarship at Illinois University in America, he began teaching PE at Orwell High School in Felixstowe.


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But as his career blossomed, an “insidious” brain tumour began to trigger personality changes.

Believing he was at fault for his perceived failings at work, he quit his post at Northgate High School in Ipswich in 2004.

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He left another job at Newmarket High School a few months later.

In the summer of 2005, he was diagnosed with an astrocytoma - a star-shaped tumour which plants tendrils into various parts of the brain and could've killed him at any point.

A partly successful operation followed and after moving back to his parents' house in Cambridgeshire he began voluntary work at a school - such was his love of teaching.

Despite his ordeal, his parents, John and Lorna Bell, of Bassingbourn, said their son was determined to continue playing sport and helping others.

Mr Bell, 68, said: “He was fantastic to live with because he would never, ever complain - even in the last months when he couldn't walk or speak properly.

“He was very strong, caring and thoughtful. As parents, we couldn't be anything other than brave. You can't go to pieces when your son is being so strong.”

Eventually the right hand that had served him so well on the tennis court could barely hold a cup of tea.

In late 2008, the tumour returned with a vengeance and he passed away at a hospice in Cambridgeshire on October 15 this year.

Mr Bell said: “The fierce malignancy of the condition gradually bore down and overtook him.”

His funeral took place at Cambridge Crematorium last Friday. He also leaves a 36-year-old sister, Emma Brown.

A FORMER colleague paid tribute to Stephen Bell's passion for sport and his “good connection” with pupils.

Simon Smith, head of PE at Northgate High School, where Stephen was a sports co-ordinator until he left in December 2004, said staff were extremely upset at the news of his death.

He said: “Everybody knew that it was inevitable that his condition would worsen, but it still came as a massive shock that he passed away.

“He had lots of close and personal friends here, but they are remaining positive because of the memories we have of him. He was very empathetic and had a good connection with the pupils.”

Stephen's tennis doubles partner, Dr Jorg Peltzer, said: “Steve played the game with great elegance.

“His great inner strength was put to an incredibly hard test when the tumour started to affect his life. When he finally got the devastating news, he took it with great dignity.”

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