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Ex-Sheppey School deputy, Geoffrey Burton, dies

Last picture taken at Christmas of Geoffrey and Anne Burton
Last picture taken at Christmas of Geoffrey and Anne Burton

by Bel Austin

Former Sheppey School deputy head teacher Geoffrey Burton has died in the Wisdom Hospice after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

His family are distraught after pinning their hopes on trials he was about to undertake.

Two days earlier he had been to the Royal Marsden Hospital, where he was assessed as being suitable for the treatment.

But that evening he became ill and, as his condition worsened, he was taken by ambulance to the hospice. He died on February 10. While still teaching, he was diagnosed with cancer and took early retirement, aged 50.

He was in remission for a while, then it recurred and he spent long spells at the Royal Marsden. Over the past 19 years he fought the illness four times but lost the fight barely a month before his 70th birthday.

Mr Burton, who was born in East Sussex, trained at Leeds University and taught languages at other secondary schools before joining the staff at the newly opened comprehensive school in 1970.

A classical musician, he played keyboard and several stringed instruments, some of which he made himself, including a hurdy-gurdy – a type of lute.

His love was classical music and he conducted the school choir and presented full productions of works including Handel’s Messiah.

His wife Anne, who taught sciences at the school, performed in Shakespearean offerings with the staff drama group which, with head of music John Morris, he helped to organise.

He became head of languages and head of the dance and drama faculty, and also a deputy head when Richard Barson was head teacher.

Mr Burton was popular among students and staff and missed the everyday working experience when forced to retire.

In retirement, in spite of long bouts of illness, he determined to stay active by gardening and enjoying spells at the family’s second home in France.

He was able to indulge his love of reading antique books including rare Japanese woodblock-printed ones, and was also a keen photographer.

His widow Anne said: “He was a man who loved life and filled his days reading, listening to music, and spent hours on his computer. Everything he attempted he persevered with until he was totally proficient – a perfectionist.”

As well as Anne, he leaves daughter Judith, son Mark and seven grandchildren.

The funeral will take place on Thursday at The Garden of England Crematorium, Bobbing. Donations to go to the Royal Marsden Hospital and Wisdom Hospice.

Do you remember Mr Burton? Leave your own tribute by filling in the form underneath this story.

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