Hundreds bid sad farewell to Sunderland woman who dedicated her life to helping others

Kathleen Brown with a member of staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Kathleen Brown with a member of staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

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Around 200 people turned out to celebrate the life of a Wearside woman who devoted her life to helping others.

Kathleen Brown, who recently passed away at the age of 85, was secretary of Roker Methodist Church Women’s Fellowship group for half a century, and worked on the Red Cross tea bar in the A&E department at Sunderland Royal Hospital for 35 years.

Kathleen Brown with form 3A of Hudson Road School in 1951.

Kathleen Brown with form 3A of Hudson Road School in 1951.

She had also been a Victim Support volunteer, and ran sequence dance classes with her late husband, Ray, at Fulwell Community Centre. On several occasions the pair won the civic award for “Sunderland’s best kept church garden”

In recognition of her efforts, Kathleen was awarded a place on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2011. She turned it down because she said did not need recognition for the things she had done “just to fill in the time”.

Her son, BBC Look North TV presenter, Jeff Brown, told the packed congregation at Roker Methodist Church that, much as she deserved the award, she “didn’t want any fuss” - and wrote to the Queen to thank her but politely refuse a medal.

“We tried for about a week to persuade her to accept the MBE, but she just decided she’d made up her mind, and didn’t want anyone to know about it,” said Jeff, 53.

Her attitude was that she’d been blessed with wonderful friends and family, and she thought herself lucky the Motor Neurone struck at the age of 84, and not 44 or 24.

Son David Brown

“She really didn’t think what she did was anything special, when the truth was she helped raise thousands of pounds for the hospital and spent her life helping others.

“She would have been overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up for the funeral. “

A former pupil at Bede Collegiate School, Kathleen Allen – as she was – taught at the town’s Diamond Hall and Hudson Road schools before working for Sunderland Education Authority as a home teacher, tutoring pupils who were too sick or ill to attend classes.

She was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease last summer, and spent the last two months of her life at the Falstone Manor Care Home on Roker seafront, close to her home.

The BBC's Jeff Brown.

The BBC's Jeff Brown.

Donations at the funeral raised £960, and with a further £245 from the Fulwell sequence dancers, Kathleen’s chosen charities - the MND Association and MacMillan Cancer Nurses - received more than £600 each.

“We were amazed by the generosity of everyone who turned up to give mum such a moving send-off,” said eldest son David, 57, an architect currently working on plans for the restoration of the tunnel beneath Roker Pier.

“She loved life, and was always smiling.

“Her attitude was that she’d been blessed with wonderful friends and family, and she thought herself lucky the Motor Neurone struck at the age of 84, and not 44 or 24.

“She saw a silver lining in everything.”

Kathleen, who became a widow in 2009 when Ray died at the age of 84, also leaves Jeff’s wife Susan, and their daughter Alice, 23, and David’s wife Andrea and their son Paul, 30.