Obituary: Fundraiser of the year with rare neurological condition dies aged 75
- Credit: Supplied by family
A grandmother with a rare neurological condition, who went on to raise thousands of pounds after completing a gruelling physical challenge, has died aged 75.
Christine Harrison, of Poringland, near Norwich, was first diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) in 2017.
The condition is so rare that there are only believed to be around 4,000 people living with PSP in the UK at any one time.
Sufferers may experience problems with balance, movement, vision, speech, and eventually swallowing.
Mrs Harrison’s husband of 54 years, Peter, said it was a shock to the entire family.
“As she deteriorated, I became her full-time career,” he added.
“She continued to put others before herself whenever she could.
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“But it was her independent and determined character which saw her push on to help others going through the same as her.”
In May 2021, despite her failing strength, she undertook a sponsored challenge to use her arm exercise machine and raised nearly £2,300 for the PSP Association.
It was an achievement that saw her named the charity’s fundraiser of the year.
Mr Harrison said: “The rarity of her disease made her determined to volunteer for five different research programmes at Cambridge Neurosciences over the past five years, involving many car journeys and days away from home.
“She also decided to donate her brain tissue for research and as a result, science and mankind will be able to benefit from her generosity for years to come.
“I'm so proud of her achievements and I am dedicated to raising the fight to defeat this dreadful disease wherever I can.”
Born Christine Brookes at home in Psalters Lane in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, she was the eldest daughter of parents Joe Brookes, a fettler, and Myra, a housewife and part-time worker.
Aged seven, she welcomed her baby sister, Jennifer, and despite the age difference, she would include her sister in many of the things she did well into her teenage years until she began attending the cinema and youth clubs with her friends.
Described as a “good student”, Mrs Harrison inherited a love of history from her father. It was no surprise then that she chose to become a teacher. Undertaking the drive down south to college in her father’s Morris Minor, she completed her training in 1968 at Redland College of Education, Bristol.
Mr Harrison said he became “captivated by her smiling, happy character” from their very first meeting. They married in August 1969.
Together, they moved around the country due to Mr Harrison’s work, living in Manchester, Jersey, and Southampton before settling in Norfolk – all while bringing up the couple’s sons, Christopher and Mark.
Combined with an almost nomadic lifestyle and choosing to prioritise her family, Mrs Harrison took a break from her teaching career that had originally begun in 1968.
She started work at Blackburn Primary School, Rotherham, as an assistant teacher, before moving to similar roles in West Riding and Stockport. She was then involved with playgroups in Jersey and Hampshire.
Following her career break, and after two years spent as a supply teacher in Norfolk, she settled at Framingham Earl High School in 1990 teaching religious education and working in learning support. She retired from there after working her way up the ranks to director of learning support.
Life outside of work for Mrs Harrison consisted of playing hockey and badminton as a schoolgirl, Nordic walking, and sewing to become a skilled seamstress making clothes for herself and her sons when they were younger. She also began quilting with a local class, was a keen gardener, and a talented baker and cook – Chicken Marengo was her specialty dish.
Finally, she enjoyed travelling and spent holidays in France and Iceland, spending their last holiday together at the latter in early 2018. This would be their final holiday before her diagnosis prevented her from travelling long distances.
She was able to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 2017 with a day trip on the Norfolk Broads aboard the Wherry Albion.
Mrs Harrison died on April 10. As well as her husband and sons, she leaves behind her daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Her funeral took place on May 16.
Donations raised in Christine Harrison’s memory for PSP Association via https://pspassociation.org.uk/ or PSPA, Margaret Powell House, 415a Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes, MK9 3BN.
- During her final weeks in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the couple was supported by the Butterfly initiative. For more information about being a volunteer, email Emma.Taylor@nnuh.nhs.uk
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- To read more obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.