Hundreds remember Mr Fry at memorial service

Thursday 24 May 2018

Pupils, former pupils, colleagues and friends turned out in their hundreds to bid farewell to much-loved teacher Derek Fry who died suddenly at Easter.

More than 600 people attended a memorial service at The Grammar School at Leeds on Saturday 12 May to remember Mr Fry and to mark the huge contribution that he had made to teaching.

The memorial service was live-streamed from the assembly hall to other parts of the school to enable everyone to take part in the ceremony and it was also watched live on YouTube by Mr Fry’s former students living in other parts of the world.

Many alumni had travelled from all over the UK, and one former student, Anas El Turabi (OL98), made the journey from the USA where he is a fellow at Harvard University. He continued to meet up with Mr Fry several times a year and remembered his kindness, saying: “I have moved around a number of times since leaving school and, without fail, when I arrived at a new address Mr Fry’s letter was always the first one that I received.”

The service featured Mr Fry’s favourite music performed by the school choir and jazz ensemble, plus readings from current and former students as well as past and present colleagues, including GSAL Principal Sue Woodroofe; teachers Andrew Bridgewater and Dr Michelle D’Vali; his longstanding friend Stanley Farrar; and one of his former pupils from Mirfield High School, Dr Heather Allinson.

He was described as an inspirational and extraordinary man by the Reverend Carol Heatley, however kindness was definitely the watchword of the day with all speakers recalling his kind heart, along with his passion for teaching and his sense of humour.

Former students who paid tribute during the service were Dr Sam Cohen (OL05) and Katie-Lou White (GSAL17). Sam, now a research fellow at St John’s College Cambridge, gave thanks for Mr Fry’s life and Katie-Lou, who is studying natural sciences at Cambridge University, read an excerpt from The Spangled Heavens by Lawrence Edwards, the book which first inspired Mr Fry’s interest in astronomy.

A moving tribute from current GCSE astronomy students Rohan Karthik, Arun Bahia, Sam Kunin, Matthew Giles and Stephen Rawes was interspersed with many amusing anecdotes of their time in the classroom with Mr Fry.

The eulogy was delivered by his former colleagues, Paul Lunn and Peter Jolly, who recalled his ‘absolute and utter humility’ and ‘quiet, gentle authority.’

Former colleague from Leeds Grammar School and long-time friend, the author Joanne Harris, also paid tribute to Mr Fry. She recalled how, after she had based one of her characters in her best-selling book Chocolat on him, she took him to see the film version at a cinema in Headingley which would allow him to bring his dog along! His only comment at the end of the screening was how tall they had made him.

To much laughter she said: “He was small in stature but, oh boy, did he cast a long shadow.”

Mr Fry started his teaching career at Greenhill Primary School, Bramley, before moving to Mirfield Grammar School, which became Mirfield High School, where he taught for 20 years. He joined Leeds Grammar School in 1987, where he continued to teach on a voluntary basis at LGS and GSAL for 18 years following his retirement in 2000.

Former colleagues and pupils from previous schools also attended his memorial service, including one of his earliest pupils, Neil Howson. He was taught by Mr Fry when he started out at Greenhill Primary School, Bramley, in the 1960s and his daughter Lulu, a Y11 student at GSAL, was also taught by him more than 50 years later. Neil described him as ‘a Mr Chips of the 21st century’.

The order of service followed clear instructions left by Mr Fry for his funeral and featured his favourite pieces of music including Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A: second movement; and Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 21 in C: second movement; plus Vaughan Williams’ 49th Parallel Prelude; and The Chicken by Pee Wee Ellis, performed by the GSAL Jazz Ensemble.

Visit Mr Fry’s memorial page which includes the service and his obituary.

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