CHRISTINE Roche, who has died aged 61, gave over 35 years’ service to the education in Bradford of deaf children. At Thorn Park, she served as special needs teacher, deputy head and head.”
She was among the driving forces behind the move to incorporate pupils with hearing difficulties into centres based at mainstream primary and secondary schools across the district.
For many years she also brought two deaf boys into the family home every weekend for respite care.
Despite ill health, she oversaw the council’s closure of the school and the opening of two deaf-provision units in mainstream schools, at Swain House Primary and Hanson Secondary Academy, before retiring after the diagnosis of bone cancer in October 2010.
Thirty years ago, she introduced sign language into the school to help alleviate the academic and social frustrations of so many profoundly deaf youngsters. At that time, sign language did not have the recognition it has since won, and she had to overcome the traditional prejudice in favour of ‘oral’ education.
Born in Derby, the second daughter of George and Betty Gil – a brother came later – Mrs Roche was six years old when tragedy struck the family.
Her father, a pilot for the Black Arrows, died of influenza having spent days stranded in the desert. She, her mother and sister Diana were later invited to Buckingham Palace to collect his military honours.
In later life she met royalty once again when she conducted Princess Anne on a televised tour of her school.
An adventurous, cheeky and mischievous child, she could do no wrong so once, when she threw a pair of scissors that hit Diana, it was Diana who got into trouble for being in the way.
Inventive too, she created her own language, and when she started school, the class teacher - unable to make sense of her - called in her sister to translate. But she went on to John Port Grammar School, Etwall, and when the family moved to Shropshire, she attended the Priory Girls’ Grammar School in Shrewsbury.
She joined the Nesscliffe Young Farmers’ Group, becoming social secretary, took up country dancing and was active in church life, volunteering as a bell-ringer and helping to teach at Sunday school.
In 1970, she went to Exeter University to read psychology, and chose to complete one of her final projects at Exeter’s Royal Deaf Aacademy, an experience that led her into her specialisation.
In addition to a busy social life, she did voluntary work every week on the maternity ward at the local hospital, and later recruited and coordinated other student volunteers.
After graduating, she trained as a teacher of the deaf at Manchester University, and went on to complete her Masters at Sheffield University. She took up her first teaching role at Heathlands School in St Albans, where she met Tim Roche whom she would later marry.
The couple settled in Keighley, and Mrs Roche accepted the offer of a teaching post at the School for the Deaf in Bradford.
A vivacious hostess, she took delight in cooking; when her daughter Hannah was at Glasgow University, she prepared one of her roast dinners for all 12 occupants of the student flat she was living in.
In 2001, on the day of the 9/11 attacks, Mrs Roche had a biopsy which would show that she had breast cancer, the treatment for which she bore with indomitable good spirit.
After seven years of relatively good health, cancer returned in late 2010, and she was forced to retire.
In 2011, her daughter took on the role of full-time carer, and in June this year mother and daughter were nominated for the Sue Ryder Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards - Mrs Roche for her work with deaf children, and her daughter for her care, which she combined with academic attainment.
Recently, when she developed a pain and was visited by a doctor and he asked if she were frightened as to what it might be, she retorted: “I know it’s cancer and I’m not scared”.
Mrs Roche is survived by her children Timothy and Hannah.