Susan Waller Thomas obituary

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My aunt, Susan Waller Thomas, who has died of cancer aged 80, was an inspiring and dedicated teacher, councillor, lord mayor and high sheriff in Swansea and West Glamorgan. She was compassionate and fiercely intelligent and had a deep belief in the power of advocacy to change lives and create opportunities.

Born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, Susan was the daughter of Mary (nee Peasgood) and Freddie Amoore, an RAF engineer. Her schooldays in Lincolnshire she described as appallingly awful, and she went on to dedicate many years of her life to young people and to improving the experience that they would have of education and wider society. She always listened to what people had to say and never dismissed the concerns of others.

Sue studied psychology and English at Liverpool University, graduating in 1963. At Liverpool she met Derek Waller, a mathematician. After their marriage in 1964, they moved to south Wales, where Derek became a lecturer in mathematics at University College of Swansea (later Swansea University). They intended to stay for only two years but instead built their lives in Wales.

Sue taught English at Gowerton girls’ grammar school, at West Glamorgan Institute and Gorseinon College. In 1978, Derek died of leukaemia aged 37, leaving Sue to parent their three young children – which she did with immense devotion and courage.

Sue also had an extraordinary commitment to community and became actively involved in Swansea’s services for refugees from the Vietnam war. She was an English teacher and advocate to Vietnamese refugee families, many of whom became lifelong friends.

In the early 1980s she was elected a Liberal Democrat councillor for Newton ward on Swansea council. After many years as a councillor, Sue served as lord mayor of Swansea in 2007, and as high sheriff of West Glamorgan in 2011.

In 2008 Sue married Alan Thomas, an academic at Swansea University. Their home was a place of delicious dinners for family and friends, barbecues and Easter egg hunts. She continued to support causes that were dear to her, including charities for young carers, and sponsoring Guide Dogs for the Blind. She was honorary chair of the Gower Badgers cricket club.

Alan died in 2011. Sue is survived by her three children, Julia, John, and Duncan, six grandchildren, and a great-grandson; by her stepchildren, Stefan and Jo, her brother, John, her nephew, Jonathan, and me.