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Former Sudbury schoolteacher, firefighter and active community member James White dies at age of 90

The daughter of a former school teacher, who taught dozens of pupils in Sudbury and Lavenham during an extensive career, has paid tribute to her father, who died aged 90.

James White, known to family and friends as Jim, moved to Long Melford in 1963 to fulfil his second teaching position at the village primary school.

His wife, Sheila, secured a job as a cook at Melford Hall for Lord and Lady Hyde Parker, who had previously owned the estate, before it was taken over by the National Trust.

James White from Sudbury tribute (26242756)
James White from Sudbury tribute (26242756)

Mr White lived on the site of the stately home with his wife and four children – John, Thomas, George and Alice Rowley, who has fond memories of their time there.

“We had a lovely childhood growing up in Long Melford,” she said. “We had so much freedom riding on our bikes in the grounds.”

Alongside his job as a primary school teacher, Mr White worked part-time as a firefighter at Long Melford Fire Station.

James White from Sudbury tribute (26242758)
James White from Sudbury tribute (26242758)

“He loved the adrenaline and the camaraderie of working with the other firemen,” said Mrs Rowley.

Having established a friendship with the First World War poet Edmond Blunden, who had lived in Long Melford before his death in 1974, Mr White was inspired to pay tribute to him by helping to raise funds to reinstate a series of stained glass windows at Holy Trinity Church.

“He helped to keep his memory alive,” said Mrs Rowley.

James White from Sudbury tribute (26242760)
James White from Sudbury tribute (26242760)

In 1977, Mr White accepted a position at Sudbury High School for Girls in Tudor Road.

In the same year, he and his wife brought their first family home in Melford Road.

Having lived in Long Melford for a large part of their childhood, Mrs Rowley recalls her other siblings finding the transition fairly difficult.

“My brothers struggled moving,” said the 50-year-old.

Mr White joined Sudbury Fire Station as a part-time firefighter alongside his teaching job, while his wife took up another position as a cook at Bowmans, a delicatessen.

Keen to play an active role in the community, Mr White joined various groups, including The Sudbury Society, Sudbury Heritage Centre and The Quay Theatre.

In 1985 at the age of 55, Mr White retired. Passionate about gaining insight into the First World War, he read extensively about the history of the conflict.

Originally from Birmingham, Mr White, who was an only child, lived in an orphanage for part of his childhood after his mother, Lily-May, a nurse, was left to bring him up on her own.

“He didn’t make a big thing about it,” said Mrs Rowley.

After leaving school at the age of 14, he joined RAF Stradishall a few years later.

During his role as a flight engineer, Mr White joined the efforts of the Berlin Airlift at the end of the Second World War, and was later deployed to Egypt during the Suez Crisis in 1956.

Mr White is survived by his wife, four children and 10 grandchildren.

A private funeral is being held on Friday, with friends invited to join the family at The Bay Horse in Melford Road at 2pm.

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