Church of England Diocese of Norwich Hempstead

Obituary to Su Summers 1949 - 2020. Hempstead Church Warden

Su Summers 1949 - 2020

A resident of Hempstead for the last twelve years, Su Summers was a privately-religious person, not one to whom one could attach the moniker 'holier than thou’, being perfectly happy to risk making a fool of herself along with the rest of us in the provision of entertainment at village Christmas Parties.

A Parish Councillor until she found her time filled to more than capacity with other ventures, she immersed herself in all aspects of village life, believing as she did in the immense value of community and the cohesion this can bring to otherwise disparate groups of people in a neighbourhood.

A selfless provider of the first order, forever potting and pickling nature’s produce for both the benefit of her fellow man and the Church’s coffers, she established a produce stall in the village, where her home-made jams and crab-apple jellies were firm favourites. I remember her telling me of the time when a regular visitor to the village, having found the stall bereft of the marmalade she so loved and would regularly buy, knocked on Su’s door to ask if there was any left that hadn’t yet made it to the stall. There was not - but Su did have fruit in the freezer, so she made a batch. Now, marmalade-making, whilst the final product is hugely rewarding, is not something that is produced without a very great deal of effort - all that paring of the zest and making sure that the pith is removed, followed by squeezing the cooked fruit half to death to get all the pectin out - but Su was prepared, yea, even happy, to do it for someone she barely knew - and for the Church.

She served as Church Warden at All Saints for many years, managing the booking of priests during periods of interregnum in addition to her usual duties and being a listening friend to Reverend Marion Harrison. Su spent many years planning the rotas for church services and during the latest Benefice interregnum organised priests to take the services. She spearheaded the brochure to encourage the right priest to join the Benefice. A job well done.

A chorister from the age of eight, when she could be found singing psalms in the Church choir led by her father, Su took over the leadership of the Benefice Choir a number of years ago. She truly understood the power of choral music to unite and uplift people and her inclusive approach soon encouraged more people from the Benefice who enjoyed singing to become involved. With immense kindness, support and with a tenacity borne of her need to produce a beautiful sound she corralled members into a cohesive group of singers. Beginning with singing at the major Festivals with the occasional Evensong for good measure, and buoyed up by an appreciative congregation, the choir eventually sang at a dozen services a year. Her enthusiasm and passion for music flowed out of her and inspired everyone out of their comfort zones. Her commitment was second to none.

Su established a host of social activities for the benefit of people and the environment alike such as Toad Watch at Green Farm, annually hosting an event each February at The Feathers in Holt with the aim of recruiting more people to populate the rota. Once the job of spending cold, dark, wet evenings picking up God’s creatures and moving them to a place of safety (the pond - all the while keeping count …) for a month or more was done, she would host an Annual Toad Lunch in her garden so that people could enjoy a treat after their efforts, and also get to see what their fellow ‘toaders’ looked like in daylight!

Monthly Coffee & Gossip Meetings were established in the Village Hall and then, of course, there was Hempstead Arts. This was never just Friday evening through to Sunday, which was what most people saw. Well in advance, signs had to be put out at road-sides far and wide and flyers distributed for display in local retail outlets; women (usually) engaged to cook food for sale throughout the week-end and, indeed, cajoled to man the cafe. Other willing helpers were busy throughout the previous week smartening up the Hall and environs, re-painting and erecting the staging and then finally hanging the art. During this time, Su was busy making and also buying victuals to keep visitors refreshed, and putting final touches to her own stained glass work that would go on sale.

But before any of this could happen, Su and Ian trawled Norfolk during the Open Studios season looking for new artists to show. And after everything had been taken down and the Village Hall returned to normal, the books balanced and determinations made concerning the monies due to artists, most of the ‘support staff ’, as it were, breathed a sigh of relief for a job well-done and went home. But Su’s job was not yet done for during the following week she worked with her fellow Church Warden, Ann Udale, to send out the artists’ cheques, accompanied by hand-written letters thanking them for their participation and expressing a hope to see them again next year. Even in February this year, despite her failing health and determined that the show would go on, Su convened a meeting to begin the planning of Hempstead Arts 2020 and died right in the middle of when the exhibition would have taken place had it not been for Coronavirus.

All of the profits from Hempstead Arts went to the Church and the profits from Coffee & Gossip were distributed to various organisations from the Newsletter, Village Hall, Church and a few charities.

There is so much more: the Church Charity Lunches she organised and her input to first participating in, and then in latter years helping to manage, the delivery of the Church and Village Fête. She not only managed Village Hall bookings, forever sending takings to the Treasurer, she cleaned it regularly too.

And we should not forget the Play-Reading Group, established for all those desperate to have their ‘footlights’ moment without the fear of forgetting lines! Having run for many years and always with a Group Supper for members every November (reading hugely entertaining Fawlty Towers plays), the level of work that had to be undertaken before each meeting was really quite phenomenal, with characters to be allotted and sometimes re-allotted at short notice when someone couldn’t make a meeting - and always with the pressure of trying to make sure that, for those who wanted them, ‘starring roles’ were allocated evenly over the year. Its demise toward the end of last year was indicative of just what a remarkable character Su was. It foundered as a result of her failing health and members’ reluctance, for many and different reasons, to pick up what was a sometimes trying and very difficult mantle.

Su was rarely the only person involved in any of her ventures, but she was certainly the driver. She wanted the community to thrive. People who knew her talk about her keen sense of responsibility; her self-effacing and conciliatory character; and the way that she just got on with things.

And let us not forget the contribution to all of this made by Ian, the man Su described as her ‘rock’, always there to support actively every new venture she embarked upon. Just before she died, Su apologised to Ian for "dragging him through so many things".

He has said that when he was editing this newsletter and reached that stage of production which required somebody to proof-read it, she, in turn, would drop everything for him. Sounds like a good partnership to me.

Diane Collier