Memorial woodland opened in Swaffham to remember tsunami victim Louise Willgrass
A memorial woodland has been opened at a Swaffham school in memory of a former pupil who died in the tsunami which swept through Asia almost a decade ago.
Mother-of-four Louise Willgrass, 43, who died in the tragic events of Boxing Day 2004, was remembered during a special ceremony at Sacred Heart School, where the new woodland playground will be used by the children of the Little Pedlars Nursery.
Her parents Mike and Jane Cornwell, who live in nearby Necton, were there along with Mrs Willgrass’ children Emily, 25, and Ben, 23 – who both now work for the family’s financial business in Norwich – and Katie, 17, who is a student at Hethersett Old Hall school. Their 19-year-old brother Michael is at university in Sheffield.
All four children survived the tsunami with their father Nigel when the wave struck the Thai holiday resort of Phuket.
Yesterday, Mr Cornwell addressed a large crowd of pupils, teachers and nuns at the school, thanking everyone for their efforts in clearing and landscaping the area to make a fitting memorial for his daughter.
Mrs Cornwell added: “What they’ve done here is wonderful. Three or four weeks ago you wouldn’t have been able to walk through here.”
As the tenth anniversary of the tsunami approaches, Mrs Cornwell said: “Sometimes it feels like forever, but sometimes it is like no time has passed at all. I suppose because of the children, it has kept it alive.”
Ben Willgrass, who also attended the school and returned for the opening of the woodland, said: “As Papa said in his speech, this is something Mum would have liked, because children meant everything to her.”
Sister Francis Ridler, who has been the school’s headteacher since 1979, said: “Louise was an active member of the school. She was a really friendly and happy girl and as she grew older she really loved children.
“She would have enjoyed seeing this play area opened today. It is a wonderful opportunity for the children to enjoy the woodland, and we are very grateful for all the hard work that has been done.”
The play area was funded with £5,000 raised by the Cornwell family and the Rotary Club of Swaffham.
Denis Bishop, of the Rotary Club, said: “It has been really worthwhile and we are delighted that it has worked out in the way it has. I think this will be a really lovely memorial to remember Louise here in Swaffham.”