Funeral takes place in Slinfold for recently-wed leukaemia sufferer

Jeremy and Michele Frank on their wedding day in August
Jeremy and Michele Frank on their wedding day in August

The funeral of a Mannings Heath woman, who became betrothed when she discovered she had just one month to live, has taken place in Slinfold.

Just 34 days before she died at the age of 53 on September 16 from acute myeloid leukaemia, Michele Frank, nee Evans, married Jeremy Frank on August 13.

A special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury allowed the couple to get married their home in Oak Way, Mannings Heath under the blessing of the Rev Guy Bridgewater.

Mr Bridgewater said: “Conducting the emergency wedding for Michele and Jeremy was one of the greatest privileges I have experienced in 25 years of ordained ministry.

Jeremy, aged 58, said : “I was with Michele for 17 years but we never got married and she wanted to have my name before she died.

“We married knowing she only had a month left to live.”

Jeremy told the County Times that the wedding took place a week after the special licence was applied for.

“Mr Bridgewater was brilliant and asked for a speedy turn-around because of the circumstances.

“It usually costs around £250 but the fee was waived and the cheque was returned because of how ill Michele was. It was very moving.

“The memories will keep me going forever and I miss her every moment of every day.”

It was only this year Michele, a steam enthusiast, learned she had cancer on return from a holiday to India. She was diagnosed in February following a bone marrow biopsy and was hospitalised for two months.

While hoping for a stem cell transplant, Michele spent the early summer at home. Jeremy said: “The doctors were hopeful too but none of the family were a match. Once they had found a donor it was too late and they couldn’t get the cancer down to do the transplant.”

Devoted husband, Jeremy, added how despite it all she remained positive and even went dancing at Wiston Rally in July where ‘nobody could believe she was ill’.

The newly wedded couple went on to have a three-day honeymoon in Devon where they rented a windmill near Torquay and drove through Dartmoor in Jeremy’s Audi TT.

“We had a beautiful time together but within three days she was back in hospital.”

Friends family and members of the steam fraternity rolled out their in their droves to say farewell to Michele.

Mr Bridgewater added:“ I join many others in paying tribute to their deep courage and love which will never die.”

Michele Frank was buried at St Peters Church, Slinfold on Monday, October 8 alongside her father’s ashes.

Michele told husband Jeremy the night before she died that she wanted to be buried in Slinfold with her ex Welsh Guard father, Vic Evans.

Jeremy said: “She originally was denied the right to be buried there as she didn’t reside in the parish, but her wish was made possible with her father’s ashes.”

Her mother Brenda had kept the ashes for four years before parting with them at the last request of her daughter.

A steam traction engine led the way at the funeral and was driven by Olly Warburton, with whom steam enthusiast Michele drove her engines.

Many people from the steam rally world also came to pay their respects, including Terry Hand from Rudgwick Steam & Country Show and Fred and Robert Harris from Harris Fun Fair, Ashington.

Jeremy’s daughter, Mary-Anne Frank, 21, sang ‘Ave Maria’ at the service. She said: “It was a privilege. I was shaking a bit and I couldn’t look up because I knew everyone was crying. I just wanted it to be perfect.”

Jeremy added: “I would just like to mention Michele’s two beautiful daughters, Helen and Emma and granddaughter Grace who she leaves behind.

“My grateful thanks also go to Revd Guy Bridgewater and Revd John Gay who presided over the burial said some very moving words during the service.”

When Michele was laid to rest, there was a final sounding of the steam whistle in a mournful tribute.