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Family and colleagues pay tribute to long-time Quay Theatre contributor Sue Norris following death at age of 70

Tributes have been paid to a dedicated dressmaker who spent nearly three decades running the costume department at Sudbury’s Quay Theatre, before retiring from the role last year.

Sue Norris died at the age of 70 after suffering from a serious lung condition.

Praising the boldness of her personality, her husband, Jim, said: “She was a formidable character and a strong-willed lady.”

Sue Norris from Sudbury's Quay Theatre, who died in February, with husband, Jim. (33192834)
Sue Norris from Sudbury's Quay Theatre, who died in February, with husband, Jim. (33192834)

Having demonstrated an accomplished skill at creating outfits, Mrs Norris, a mother-of-three, took the helm at the costume department in the early 1990s.

During her role, Mrs Norris established an extensive collection of costumes and props, which provided a wide range of outfits, which could be both hired and utilised by groups who performed at the theatre in Quay Lane, including Sudbury Dramatic Society.

“It was her own business, so she was passionate about it from day one,” said Mr Norris.

Sue Norris from the Quay Theatre, who died in February, with husband, Jim. (33124182)
Sue Norris from the Quay Theatre, who died in February, with husband, Jim. (33124182)

Reflecting on her qualities, Sharon Buckler, who manages the theatre, said: “Sue was much loved by colleagues and customers. Although she was diminutive in stature, she had a big personality, with a generosity to match.

“You would have been hard-pressed to find many people in the town that hadn’t met Sue, not least through her knack of fitting the right customers to the right outfits for special events through the hiring arm of her business.”

Expressing their sadness over the loss of a valued individual, Mrs Buckler said the whole team had been left devastated.

“Sue’s untimely death is much mourned at the Quay as we have lost a huge presence, a friend and a highly knowledgeable colleague,” she said. “The place simply won’t be the same without her.”

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, a commemorative event in memory of Mrs Norris has been postponed. Family and friends are hoping to be able to host it later on in the year.

Born in north London, Mrs Norris grew up with four brothers and two sisters.

At the age of 16, she left school to train as a dressmaker at a luxury fashion company in London’s West End.

She spent four years mastering her skills at Paquerette Dresses, while working with her older sister, Lesley.

“They were both really good with their hands and, with all their brothers and sisters at home, they probably had to mend a lot of clothes,” said Mr Norris.

In 1969, the pair watched the Beatles perform an exclusive music concert on the rooftop of the Apple building, which was near their workshop.

Although they treasured the rare experience, the siblings continued to be dedicated fans of the Rolling Stones.

Mr and Mrs Norris attended the same school in Chesthunt, Hertfordshire, where Cliff Richard’s sister studied.

“All the girls would come out of school to see him,” recalls Mr Norris.

Although the couple did not start dating until they were adults, Mr Norris knew Sue by sight, as he had sang in the choir at the same church where her father had worked as a verger.

After returning on leave from his job as an executive chef for an army general, Mr Norris met Sue while visiting a friend’s house. They began dating and married in 1971.

Having been deployed to Germany as a military chef, Mr Norris relocated there with his wife and two sons, Simon and Mark.

Within three days of arriving, Mr Norris was redeployed to Belfast in Northern Ireland, while Mrs Norris remained in Germany with their two children.

“I was a bit apprehensive, but I knew she could cope,” he said, adding that the couple kept in regular contact by airmail.

Six months later, Mr Norris returned to Germany, where the couple both worked in a hospital.

After further deployments abroad, the couple returned to the UK and to Hoddeston, in Hertfordshire, where they had their third child, Kate, in 1980.

Fond of Sudbury, the couple decided to move to the town in 1987, with Mrs Norris’ brother, Paul, and sister, Lesley, living close by.

The family bought their first privately-owned home in Waldingfield Road, before moving to a house in Gainsborough Road and another in Melford Road.

While Kate attended Uplands Middle School, Mrs Norris became a school governor, a role she thoroughly enjoyed.

“She passionately wanted to support the school and make sure it was going in the right direction,” said Mr Norris.

After helping to create outfits for various productions at the Quay Theatre, Mrs Norris took full responsibility for the costume department.

Dedicated to her role, she invested her own money into supporting the department, while helping to raise thousands of pounds for the facility and local charities.

Following her retirement, she volunteered as a bartender at the theatre.

Mrs Norris is survived by her husband, three children and five grandchildren.

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