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An amazing Norwich woman with a great love of life

PUBLISHED: 13:21 04 January 2011

Shirley Crocker being given the Freedom of the City of Norwich

Shirley Crocker being given the Freedom of the City of Norwich

Archant © 2010

Derek James pays tribute to much-loved city woman Shirley Crocker.

One day a few months ago I walked through Norwich Market with Shirley Crocker. It took a long while because it seemed everybody knew her and wanted to talk to her.

From the fortunes of the Canaries to life in the old chocolate factory and from choir singing to girl guiding, Shirley led such a busy and full life. So many people, of all ages and from all walks of life, knew Shirley and loved chatting to her and spending some time in her company.

The last time I saw her was at the end of November when she turned up for a service to remember the young crew of the Liberator Lady Jane, which came down over Norwich in 1944.

She had never forgotten that terrible day when she watched as the pilot of the stricken American bomber searched for waste ground to crash land. When he did, the plane burst into flames and nine men died. She was 12-year-old Shirley Quinton, living in Heigham Grove at the time.

“I hoped I would see you” she said handing me a piece written paper about her granddaughter and her latest acting honour.

She was so proud of her – and she had every right to be. She is Caitlin Stasey, the former Neighbours star now making a name for herself in the movies.

A few weeks later Caitlin, along with her mum Sally and other members of the family, had flown home to Norwich to attend Shirley’s memoral and thanksgiving service.

Her sudden death, at the age of 78, was such a shock to everyone who knew her. She was so full of energy. She was full of fun.

St Peter Mancroft Church was packed with family and friends for the service and the many people reflected her wide range of interests. Generous tributes were paid and people spoke of her life and how she had helped others.

Shirley had been to Norwich High School for Girls and had then worked as a secretary at two of the biggest businesses in the city – Caley-Mackintosh and Colman’s.

Singing was one of her main loves and it was wonderful that a number of her choral friends should gather together and form a special choir to sing at the service.

She loved sport and was a passionate, lifelong supporter of her beloved Norwich City. She especially enjoyed being a host in the Colman’s box at Carrow Road and occasionally accompanying guests on to the pitch for presentations before the game.

Much of her spare time was devoted to guiding and scouting activities and for a number of years she held an executive role in the guiding movement. Shirley also loved walking in the countryside, across this country and in Europe, but above all else she loved her family. Her husband Peter, who has been ill for a number of years, her children Sally, Philip and Timothy and her grandchildren.

Sally now lives in Australia, but came home for the service with her husband and daughters, Caitlin and Victoria.

Shirley was very proud of the fact that last March she became one of the first women in 700 years to became a hereditary Freeman of the City of Norwich after the law governing admission to the Freedom was changed.

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