Whaley Bridge said farewell to one of its most loved and respected residents, Dr Dorothy Pearson, who died aged 87 in Manchester Royal Infirmary on 12 March following complications after a heart operation.
The committal was at Macclesfield Crematorium, followed by a memorial service in Dorothy’s beloved St James’ Church, Taxal.
There were tributes from the Christie Hospital, East Cheshire Hospice, Macclesfield, her family, the church and the community: all landmarks in a life well lived in service to others.
Beryl Axcell, a Reader at the Parish of Whaley Bridge, took the service and lit the first of ten candles in Dorothy’s memory, lit in turn by those who told their stories or read a lesson. Beryl told of speaking to Dorothy, three weeks before her planned heart operation: “Dorothy was confident about the outcome. But she said ‘Should I go, I will have had a wonderful life’.”
Over the next one and a half hours there were tears, smiles, laughter as the story of Dorothy’s wonderful life was told by those who knew her best.
Professor Steven Shalet, from the Christie Hospital in Manchester, first met Dorothy in 1974 when she was a paediatric radiotherapist. With others she helped bring about a revolution in the way childhood cancers were treated. He called Dorothy a pioneer, and a great example. She later became a consultant paediatric oncologist, with an international reputation.
Helen Knight, head of clinical services at East Cheshire Hospice, where Dorothy was a former chair, spoke of her invaluable expertise, her determination and immense energy, making her ‘a worthy leader’.
John Pritchard, local town and borough councillor, called Dorothy ‘a helping hand … a team worker who would encourage others to step forward.’ He spoke of Dorothy’s work with the Amenity Society, ready to don wellingtons to clear a river. Then he told the story of a little boy from Whaley Bridge, one of Dorothy’s cancer patients, aged two and a half, whose life was saved by radiotherapy and painful chemotherapy. Last year, that little boy now 42, went with his wife to show Dorothy their baby son, to her great joy. “Thank you, Dorothy”, said Councillor John. Eulogy
David Bookbinder, former leader of Derbyshire County Council, spoke of her “wonderful, amazing achievements. She was your Dorothy.” He had spoken to Dorothy after her operation, as she anticipated coming home. She asked him to say a little prayer for her. “Thank you Dorothy”, said David, an important figure in the Labour party, of which Dorothy was a lifetime member. Dorothy’s great friend Catherine Harlow was once a Labour county councillor for Whaley Bridge, becoming vice chairman of the county council. David introduced people in the congregation, who valued the advice and care Dorothy had given them: “Thank you Dorothy”, they said.
John Caryl, a nephew of Catherine Harlow, looked upon Dorothy as an adopted aunt and told of boyhood visits to Whaley Bridge, where she joined in games of cricket. “She seemed so jolly,” he said, “more than any grown-up I knew.”
Eve Collen, a cousin by marriage, spoke of Dorothy’s great sense of fun and adventure. At 81, she visited Australia to meet the family of Catherine Harlow. After the heart operation in Manchester, which had gone well, Dorothy said: “I’ll have my hip done next!” Eve thanked the community of Whaley Bridge for ‘cherishing and caring for her.’
Beryl Axcell’s final prayer gave thanks for ‘Dorothy’s clarity of mind and compassion.’ The packed church, which had already sung How Great Thou Art and Jerusalem, completed an inspiring service with Lord of the Dance. Thank you, Dorothy! Truly a life well lived.