Tributes have been paid to Connie Savage, a ‘colourful character’ who was well-known in Upper Beeding.
Connie, who lived in the village for most of her life and worked at The Towers school for 35 years, died suddenly on August 10, aged 89.
She has been remembered by her family as being a ‘colourful character’ with a ‘kind and loving heart’ and an ‘unwavering’ devotion to the church.
Connie was born in 1929 in East London, but during the war the whole family was evacuated to the south of England.
They were bound for Worthing, but due to an explosion on the line they were diverted to Steyning.
Connie’s family eventually rented a house in School Road, Upper Beeding, where Connie lived for the rest of her life.
When she was 15, her mother died and Connie then devoted her life to bringing up her four brothers – the youngest of whom was just four years old – and caring for her father.
As a young woman, Connie was employed for some time at Bligh’s, the chemist in Steyning, and then, after a holiday in New Zealand where one of her brothers had emigrated, she took up employment at The Towers.
Over the next 35 years, she cared devotedly for the young boarders and the Sisters said they knew the children were always safe in Connie’s care.
After her retirement, Connie spent much time enjoying the things she loved – walking in the countryside, painting and caring for her dogs.
However, in October 2018, Connie realised she could no longer cope alone and she moved from her beloved School Road to Upper Mead nursing home in Henfield, where she died suddenly on Saturday, August 10.
At her funeral, words from her youngest brother Gerard, who emigrated to California many years ago and was too unwell to travel, were read by Connie’s nephew, Stephen.
Gerard said: “Some of my earliest memories of Connie are from the age of four; she was only fifteen when our mother died and she took over as our mum and caretaker to our father until his passing, ten years later.
“She had a kind and loving heart and at the same time no nonsense was tolerated!
“My long-term memories of her are vivid and delightful; no boy ever had a better big sister.
“She invited a paraplegic into our home and was his carer when his mother could no longer cope.
“Connie was always ready to try something new whenever she came to stay with us in California: hiking, biking, and cross-country-skiing; she even tried downhill skiing.
“She always reminded us of the time we drove up to the end of the paved road on 14,000ft. Mt.Shasta; she got on her bike and whizzed all the way down, we were more afraid for her than she was herself.
“She never forgot the experience and named her dog Shasta.
“During one extended stay here she tried painting with oils for the first time and clearly had a natural talent; she painted scenes of our outings from memory that were amazingly accurate...”
At the funeral, Stephen said: ”Connie loved the outdoors, and everything to do with nature.
“I remember as a child many walks along the river, which Connie loved and also loved to share with others.
“Connie looked after her brothers from an early age and had to take on many responsibilities and make decisions.
“We are all shaped by our experiences and I am sure this is an important part of what became her more colourful character in later life.
“But she always thought about others before herself.
“Children have played an important role in her life and many recent conversations drifted back to the many children she cared for in her work at The Towers, which was like a second home for her.
“Connie will always be in our hearts and I know she will be missed by so many.”
Father Tony Lovegrove said: “Connie was always walking the roads and lanes of this world; she has now reached her destination.
“May she rest in the peace and joy of her Lord whom she served so well.”