Family pays tribute to 'happy and smiley' ex-teacher Judy

Judy Abbott with husband John of Fordham

Judy Abbott (right) taught in Soham for over 20 years after moving to the area with husband John (left), former chair of East Cambridgeshire District Council. - Credit: Family

The family of a former schoolteacher whose life was “very much about children and family” have paid tribute to her. 

Judy Abbott taught at The Shade and Weatheralls primary schools in Soham for over 20 years, after moving to the area from Yorkshire. 

Her son Mike said: “She was very happy and smiley; it was very much about children and family for mum.” 

Judy died aged 81 on March 19 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. 

Born in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire on March 15, 1941, Judy grew up in Midhurst, West Sussex and attended the Girls’ High School in nearby Chichester. 

She then went on to study history at university in Birmingham, where she met her husband Reginald Abbott, known as John. 

“She was the first in her family to have gone to university,” said Mike. 

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“They moved up to Huddersfield separately and both she and dad got jobs there.” 

Judy married John in Midhurst in 1963 and, after he successfully applied for the role as head of history at Soham Grammar School, they relocated to Fordham four years later. 

After an eight-year break, during which she and several friends set up Fordham playgroup, Judy returned to teaching at The Shade Primary School before transferring to the Weatheralls. 

“I think I was seven when mum went back to work and applied for a job at The Shade,” Mike recalled. 

“Mum taught swimming, loved art, loved children and English, she was musical, so she was the perfect person to be a primary school teacher. 

Judy and John Abbott of Fordham

Judy and John Abbott, who both worked in education. - Credit: Family

“She also introduced residential trips to Whitby for Year 6 pupils and living history trips for whole year groups to go to Kentwell Hall in Suffolk, where all the children dressed up in historical costumes.” 

Judy, whose husband was a former chair of East Cambridgeshire District Council, retired from teaching in 1996. 

The arts enthusiast continued her bond with education, becoming a church schools inspector under the Diocese of Ely. 

She was also a church warden at the Parish Church of St Peter & St Mary Magdalene in Fordham, until moving to the Wirral near her daughter Helen after John died in 2011. 

“She wrote children’s stories and liked craft, like knitting and sewing clothes,” said Mike. 

“Mum and dad liked to travel; the number of times they went to France, they had a particular love for it.” 

Mike added: “It was about family and community for mum, and the church played a big part in that too.” 

Judy is survived by son Mike, daughter Helen, four grandsons and one great-grandson. 

Her funeral is due to be held on April 5 at the Parish Church of St Peter & St Mary Magdalene at 12pm. 

Donations made will go to Alzheimer’s Research UK.