A year on: Tributes to teacher who died following tumour diagnosis

All smiles: Judith Todd's "selfless approach" won over hearts and maintained many long-lasting friendships

All smiles: Judith Todd's "selfless approach" won over hearts and maintained many long-lasting friendships - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The city of Norwich lost one of its most treasured and talented teachers after she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

Despite receiving the devastating news just days before embarking on a holiday, Judith Todd continued to live each day as if it were her last. 

From playing schools as a child to commanding a room of potential mathematicians and scientists, Mrs Todd’s natural ability to teach will be remembered by the hundreds of pupils she taught. 

Born in Sunderland in 1959, she was the youngest child of parents William and Evelyn. Her sister, Carol, was 10 years her senior. 

Her early schooldays were enjoyable. Everyone would know what she had been learning as she would give her dolls the same lessons when she got home.

Her sister would be subjected to spelling tests of words such as encyclopaedia, rhododendron and chrysanthemum.

When she asked how to spell “chuckernut”, however, everyone was confused until she pointed to heavy rain outside and said it was “chuckernut down”.

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On passing her 11-plus examination, she attended the local grammar school. Here, aged 13, she formed a badminton mixed-doubles partnership with another player, her future husband David Todd.

The couple would go on to spend their Saturday afternoons working together at Roker Park, the former Sunderland football club ground, selling Bovril, weak tea, and overpriced Mars bars.

Her academic interests were in science and mathematics and she excelled at them during school. She was also a keen singer, bridge player, and oboist.

In 1977, she joined Mr Todd in Nottingham to study mathematics at university and acquired new life skills such as cooking her first roast dinner.

She misread teaspoon for tablespoon and ended up making a sink full of gravy but her father’s trusted recipe for Yorkshire pudding saved the day.

In 1979, she organised a working holiday with Mr Todd in the United States, finding work in New Orleans. This trip  started a love of exciting and ambitious holidays.  

With her father and sister both working as teachers, it was perhaps inevitable that she would follow in their footsteps and help future generations share her love of numbers and equations.

She started her teaching career in Norfolk, having once again moved to follow Mr Todd who had found employment with Norwich Union immediately after their American adventures.

Soon after, the couple married in Sunderland and enjoyed a honeymoon in Yorkshire and London, where they watched the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. 

In 1981, they bought their first house in north Norwich and Mrs Todd would commute daily to North Walsham in a dilapidated mini.

In 1983, they embarked on another journey around Europe then, in 1985, they moved to Manchester. It was during this time she became a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen. Finally, in 1989, they returned to Norwich and to the house in which they would live for the next 31 years. 

Before giving birth to their daughter, Rebecca, in June 1990, she taught at Earlham School, Norwich. Two years later, their son, Andrew, was born at home, followed by another daughter, Hannah, in January 1996. 

Mr Todd said: “Bringing the same dedication and commitment to childcare as she did to her teaching, she loved being at home with the baby. 

“All three children graduated and their achievements were always a source of tremendous pride.” 

Before Hannah started school, Mrs Todd returned to teaching and worked at Norwich High School for Girls (NHSG) for the next 15 years.

Owain Hall, assistant head enrichment at NHSG, paid tribute to “a much-respected colleague”.

“She always showed great commitment to the girls during her time as a maths teacher with us," he said.

“She was also a much-valued support to our Duke of Edinburgh programme, attending many trips, and supporting the students at the start and finish of their expeditions. For students completing long walks in questionable weather, she provided a known, kind and reassuring presence to encourage and support.” 

Although busy teaching and looking after the household, she still found time to be involved in community matters. She became a governor at Poringland Primary School and Framingham Earl High School. She also served for a long time on the local parish council before deteriorating health caused her to resign. 

In 2016, the couple were about to go on holiday to Australia to celebrate their pearl wedding anniversary when they received devastating news.  

Following an MRI, due to a continued headache, Mrs Todd was told that she had a brain tumour - glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM. She was immediately admitted to Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, for the first of three eight-hour operations to remove the tumour above her right ear. Intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment followed.

A second operation followed in 2019 but, despite successful intervention, the tumour returned in January 2020. Due to an impressive recovery from the two previous procedures, she underwent another operation during the following month, on Valentine’s Day, during which she suffered a stroke leaving her paralysed on one half of her body, unable to walk, and partially sighted. After three months in hospital during lockdown, she returned home. 

Mr Todd added: “She knew she would never be in remission - but a positive, even defiant, outlook, allied with her determination to keep the disease at bay for as long as possible, meant she was able to continue to live life fully. 

“It is a worn-out cliché to say her smile lit up the room but it really did. She could approach anyone with the same friendly, curious and engaging manner she naturally defaulted to. 

“Eager to help if called upon, it was that selfless approach which won over so many hearts and maintained so many long-lasting friendships. 

“She was admired for all these things and much more. No one will forget her." 

Mrs Todd died at home on December 22, 2020, aged 61.  

An amazing donation 

David Todd, 63, of Norwich, was married to Judith Todd for more than 39 years. 

He recently donated funds to the charity Brain Tumour Research to help research into the treatment of brain tumours. 

The sizeable donation was made up of £18,000 from the remainder of Mrs Todd’s pension, thousands of pounds more from contributions made at her funeral, and Mr Todd’s involvement in the charity’s Walk of Hope during September last year.

The family were able to hold a memorial service for Mrs Todd in September, adhering to Covid restrictions. More than 100 people attended from all over the country.