Wife remembers Canon who was 'larger than life in many ways'

Canon Laurie Blanchard of Ely

Canon Laurie Blanchard has been described by his wife Jane as “larger than life in many ways”. - Credit: Family

The wife of a retired teacher and trainer within the Church of England has paid tribute to a man who was “larger than life in many ways”. 

Canon Laurie Blanchard taught worker priests as well as setting up an Anglican church and teaching science in Eswatini, before retiring to Ely. 

His wife Jane said: “He was larger than life in many ways; he was a warm, compassionate and caring man.” 

Canon Blanchard died aged 85 on March 26 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. 

Born in Bermondsey, south-east London on April 24, 1936, Canon Blanchard evacuated to the south coast of England to stay with his family during wartime. 

After returning to the area, he studied at a local primary school before moving onto a Greater London Council scholarship at Dulwich College. 

“He moved onto Edinburgh University to study science, but changed to philosophy and theology,” said Jane. 

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“He then went into the Church of England.” 

An only child, Canon Blanchard moved to Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, in 1970 to set up a church and taught science at the Waterford Kamhlaba School. 

Canon Laurie Blanchard of Ely

Canon Laurie Blanchard studied at Edinburgh University before going into teaching, including Nelson Mandela's children. - Credit: Family

Some pupils were related to African leaders, including Nelson Mandela’s children who were taught by Canon Blanchard. 

Whilst in Eswatini, he also worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the theology for the introduction of women priests in South Africa.

"Canon Blanchard returned to the UK in 1976 where he joined the Diocese of Lincoln to train non-stipendiary priests," Jane said.

"He later became director of training for the Church Army."

Canon Blanchard, a father-of-four and foster father to four sons, married his second wife Jane in 2008.

The couple retired to Ely, where he enjoyed a full life helping with services at the Church of St Peter.

He also loved all music, singing and birdwatching.

“I can picture him with binoculars in his hand and books in his pocket,” Jane said. 

“Most people say he was such a lovely man and I think that sums him up.” 

A funeral service for Canon Blanchard takes place at the Church of St Peter, Ely on April 19, 2pm. 

Funds are being collected for the Alzheimer’s Society in memory of Canon Blanchard – to donate, visit: https://bit.ly/3Jy4lo0.