The following is the text of my appreciation of Pat Fowles work within our school over a 50 year period, given at her funeral service held at Slough Crematorium on Thursday 15 August 2019.
“It is with great sadness that we learned of Pat’s death recently, and for me a great privilege to have been asked to say a few words about Pat today.
I met Pat first in the early summer of 1993, when as the new proprietors of Maidenhead College we took over her employ. She was of course but a young 61 year old then, teaching sciences and thoroughly involved in the care of those who needed additional learning support. Those of you that know our school will recognise that age has no barrier to employment with us, and so it prove with Pat, whose on-going career here lasted until she was taken by her serious illness in April 2016, working in her latter years within learning support and examination services.
I say I met Pat – it’s fairer to say she met with me, and made her mark straight away. Firstly, Pat was a redoubtable lady, who could fix child or adult with a steely gaze. It may not be that she had always been quite so formidable, but her experiences in mid-life, divorce followed by having to build a career from scratch certainly made her a force to be reckoned with. Pat’s maiden name was Tozer, commonly believed to have originated in Devon, South West England. It is a reference to the occupation of carding of wool which was originally performed by the use of teasels (Latin carduus), via the Middle English word tōsen, to tease [out]. And my goodness me, Pat could ‘Toze’ like an expert. Once she had me ‘straightened out’, and had worked out that I could be trusted, she then became one of the most delightful of convivial colleagues, always seeking me out as and when to check out that all was well and fill me in on the latest goings on in College Avenue & Road and environs, and the wider St Marks area, where she lived in Fielding Road.
I am not remotely suggesting that Pat was indiscreet, rather more well-informed and protecting her own interests as best she could, and because she took such a great interest in everyone and everything. For younger vulnerable learners, she opened routes to acquiring skills they never believed they could master, and to this day former pupils return to the school and ask after Mrs Fowles, who made such a difference to their lives. Taking an interest meant that Pat was a great listener, and for those who wanted or needed an audience, Pat was there for them, as their teacher, as a colleague or indeed simply as a wise friend.
P. W. Fowles (Mrs) first wrote to the then Maidenhead College on 21 October 1979, to ‘apply for the post of Laboratory Technician , as advertised in this week’s Maidenhead Advertiser. I am forty eight years of age and have had 5 years laboratory experience at a research station near Bristol and have also taught science at a school in the Midlands, two schools in Gloucestershire & at Furze Platt, Maidenhead. My son has just started at University, & I would like a little job as an added interest. My phone number should it be required, is Maidenhead 34084. Yours faithfully‘
P.M Fowles (Mrs) commenced work on or about the 29th November 1979. Pat’s career with us spanned 5 decades and enriched all of our lives. In the various letters I have been fortunate to find in her personnel file, our school and teachers prove to be a lifeline for her, for shortly after starting with us, she and her husband divorced, heralding a very unhappy period for Pat. She writes a year later in November 1980 to the then headmistress Violet Long ‘By joining you at the school, I have found happiness, gratitude and contentment and I pray I can continue to stay with you and perhaps in some small way repay your kindness.’
Some 18 months later, Pat wrote further “My thanks as always go to you and Ann (Doherty) for giving me the opportunity and confidence to pick up the threads of my very shattered life. Without your kindness, I hate to think where I would be today’ 3 April 1982.
It’s clear that in the personal adversity Pat faced almost 40 years ago, she found in our school a place of safety and security. This explains perhaps why she stayed so fiercely loyal over the years, through thick and thin, and why she stayed such a strong advocate for the most vulnerable of children in the school. On her retirement from teaching (April 1996), Pat had pitched to me an idea for providing specialist support for less able pupils – I suggested the idea had ‘legs’, and so it prove, with Pat supporting such children for a further 20 years – she not only repaid those earlier kindnesses but did so magnificently.
Pat drew great comfort from the American poet, Helen Steiner Rice, and she wrote on the back of one such poem notelet which I found yesterday at school. I’ll close with her poem ‘My Thanks’, which so fits how Pat made her life entwine with all of us who worked with her, and who came to value her so highly as a colleague, supported and friend:
Pat is survived by her son Mark, who lives in Manchester, and who cared for her so magnificently during her illness over the past 3 years of her life.