It was with sadness that a week before Christmas, on Thursday 18th December, we heard of the passing of Norah Browning aged 87yrs, after a fall at her home. Sadly she broke her hip and then developed pneumonia.
Despite her increasing lack of mobility in recent years which brought about the decision to move to a warden assisted flat in Brighton, Norah remained bright and cheerful and extremely alert. She spent many hours reading and doing Sudoku.
Norah's decision to become a Teacher of the Deaf was a practical development of the family's involvement with the Deaf Community which came about through her father. He had lost his hearing, during his 20s, from measles. He was ordained in Lincoln and that is where Norah was born. Soon after, the family moved to Brighton to live and here Norah went to school. Her father worked closely with the deaf community and was Chaplain to the Deaf in Brighton.
After leaving school, Norah was fortunate to go to Manchester University, where she gained a BA and trained as a Teacher of the Deaf. Then she took up a post at Margate School for the Deaf where she worked until 1954, when she and Mr and Mrs Blount moved to open a new school, Nutfield Priory Secondary School for the Deaf, in Redhill, Surrey. The school opened in May of that year with just 14 pupils. Sam Blount was Head-master and Norah was his deputy. She may have been a petite lady in build, but her inner strength was recognised by those pupils who went to her in times of need, and by staff who worked with her.
Norah taught the older girls English and typing for many years and saw them through CSE and RSA exams, in which they consistently achieved good results over the years. Many went on to use their typing skills in their work. Over the years at Nutfield Norah worked tirelessly to support the children and encourage positive attitudes within the school. One of the many things she did was to produce the weekly newsletter ‘Nutfield News’. Even with assistance from pupils, typing, editing and printing took up many hours of her time.
With the rationalisation of schools for the deaf in the South East, Surrey County Council decided to close Nutfield Priory. When it finally closed its doors to deaf children in July 1987, Norah very sadly and reluctantly, retired. She had been deputy head for nearly 30 years and had devoted almost 40 years to teaching deaf children. Norah's work was given official recognition in the New Year's Honours list of 1988 when she was awarded an MBE 'for Services to the Deaf Community'. “Her Life was her Job”.
Norah retired to live with her elder sister, Joyce, in Brighton. Norah had been involved with Joyce's interest in Guiding and they were members of the Trefoil Guild. They also went to craft embroidery classes together. Joyce died in 1994 and Norah continued to live in the family home for many years until she had a nasty fall and so it was then, she moved to a warden-assisted flat in Homelees House.
Many staff and pupils will have fond memories of Norah’s kindness, friendly smile and lively sense of humour. She was always grateful to see old friends, so appreciative that they had gone to see her. She would have been so touched at the turnout of Old Pupils and former colleagues and friends who joined her family to attend her funeral on Friday 9th January, 2015.
Norah was an amazing lady who will be greatly missed by her family and friends.