Picture gallery: Colourful final farewell for Norfolk artist

A much-loved Norfolk artist who died from an inoperable brain tumour made her final journey in a cavalcade of colour as part of an unconventional funeral she planned herself.

Ruthli Losh-Atkinson, who died last month aged 77, was carried to the funeral at Colney Wood Burial Park in a cardboard coffin beautifully decorated by a fellow artist with boats, cliffs, sea and other splashes of colour.

The coffin, which had her riding helmet, goggles and gloves placed on top, was carried by a Harley Davidson and sidecar and followed by her beloved Ariel motorcycle as was the mother-of-two's wish.

Her 75-year-old husband Douglas, who wore a gold spangly jacket and sparkling silver shirt, accompanied his wife one last time as he rode pillion on the Harley Davidson bike.

Speaking before Saturday's funeral, he said: 'Ruthli said 'I want a Harley hearse as I've never ridden a Harley. I will enjoy that'. I said you won't know anything about it, but she said 'You wait, resurrection has nothing on me'. She was a natural, positive rebel. She was quite determined in what she wanted to do and did it well and quickly and that was it. Ruthli was quite a character and it's been a privilege to have been with her for 59 years.'

Neighbours gathered with cameras in hand as the Harley Davidson hearse, which was followed by a procession of about 13 vehicles including classic cars and motorbikes, left the couple's home in Welsford Road, Eaton Rise, for the funeral.

Family and friends all wore brightly coloured clothes to the non-religious ceremony and were greeted at Colney Wood by a jazz band.

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After a short service, which included stories from loved ones about Mrs Losh-Atkinson, mourners headed out to the graveside where a harpist played music.

Friends and family, including Mr Losh-Atkinson, then read poems before a reception at the Holiday Inn hotel where guests were greeted by a large display of photographs of Ruthli with her paintings and paintings of her done by friends.

Known as a motorcycle enthusiast, as well as an artist and teacher at Neatherd High School in Dereham the diminutive Mrs Losh-Atkinson taught art and English from 1977 until her retirement in 1988 at Neatherd High School and was a senior year head.

Throughout her life, Mrs Losh-Atkison craved 'atmosphere' and would head out in storms to capture the feel of Norfolk, which she moved to in 1970 because of its 'artists' light'.

Mrs Losh-Atkinson sought out excitement and rode motorbikes until her late 60s, and travelled to the Arctic four times, including a final time aged 74. She also taught in Czechoslovakia soon after the fall of Communism.

The Swiss-born artist was a well-known member of the Norwich 20 Group of artists and the Norfolk and Norwich Art Circle.

Mr Losh-Atkinson, who first met his wife while they were at art school together in Watford, said her collection of art will now be given to the arts for others to enjoy.

Mrs Losh-Atkinson leaves husband Douglas, daughters Wendy and Erica, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Would you like to pay tribute to a loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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