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Gladys STARKEY (Teacher of biology 1946 -1980) who died on the 9 April 2008 aged 90, by Fiona BANTOCK. Gladys Starkey studied Botany at Durham University before going on to teach in 1943 for three years at Taskers High School for Girls, Pembrokeshire. Then in 1943 she came to Wolverhampton Girls' High where she stayed until she retired in 1980. Gladys was a very gentle lady who loved flowers, cats and her pupils, inspiring the latter with her own love of nature through the varied posies of wild flowers she had in her room. She was a devoted daughter, sister and cousin to her family in Cheshire.

Gladys did learn to drive but never enjoyed driving, nor finding her way about, and so she did not enjoy the freedom driving could have given her. When she retired she was quite happy for her brother to do the driving, though she was a bit put out when he suddenly decided one day that he was no longer a safe driver and promptly sold the car without talking it over with her first. Gladys liked the Guardian crossword, having an impish way with words herself; she would listen to 'the noise' (news) and she really disliked teaching what she called 'Disintegrated Science' once the sciences were run together for GCSE.

Being extremely shy, Gladys found it difficult to make friends, but those friends she did have were very good, longstanding ones and she enjoyed hearing about their pets' antics and keeping in touch, particularly with Miss Kuphal and Miss Close. They persuaded her after retirement to go on three Toc H holidays in Derbyshire when they would also be there, and Gladys thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the beautiful countryside round Cromford. She loved the walks, though progress could be painfully slow because there were so many plants, birds and insects to be studied en route! And to her own great surprise she enjoyed chatting with the other people on the holidays. She was lucky in that there was another keen botanist, an ex-physiotherapist, among the party and the two of them appreciated each other's knowledge.

Gladys was a very private person, jealously guarding her privacy. Although we knew when her birthday was, she kept her own 80th birthday extremely quiet, only letting on some time after the event because she disliked fuss; though she enjoyed the celebration of Betty Kuphal's 80th birthday on a canal trip. After having her hip replacement Gladys had to have carers visiting her house daily, and she loathed them being able to gain access to her home unannounced; however, she did appreciate their help and one of them, a pet and flower lover, did become more of a friend than a carer.

Latterly Gladys' contact with people who were not close friends was made more difficult due to her increasing deafness and her dislike of her hearing aid, but, particularly after her own beloved Tink had to be put to sleep, she relished contact with neighbouring cats and the birds who visited her little garden, which gave her so much pleasure.

Those of us who knew and loved Gladys miss our gentle friend very much.

F.B.

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