Obituary – Sarah Dunning – 1943-2021

Sarah Dunning

We are extremely saddened to report the passing of our much loved board member Sarah Dunning on 3rd September 2021 after a battle with cancer.

Sarah had been a member of the AIA board since its inception in 2014 and had contributed hugely to its success. She was also a trustee of Catholic Concern for Animals and had been its membership secretary for several yearsShe had previously served on the committee of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals, representing them on the committee of the interfaith group, Week of Prayer for World Peace.

A wonderful advocate for peace and ahimsa, Sarah was always there for the animals. She gave so much to achieve a world where all animals are loved and respected and can live a good life. We really appreciate her support and friendship. Sarah’s was a life well lived. We will miss her terribly.

Sarah leaves behind her husband Darrell (Daz) and two children, Claire and Paul. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

The following is taken from the words of her husband, Darrell at her memorial service:

Sarah was born into a scientific/academic family and, on leaving school, decided to enter teacher training and was accepted at the London University Institute of Education College. Apart from her studies, Sarah was involved, as a violinist, in the music in the college. She met Daz when her college and his combined for a concert. Three months later they decided to spend the rest of their lives together. They became engaged in Lyons Coffee Shop in Tottenham Court Road…where else in 1964? After a year working separately in London and Birmingham, they moved to Watford for what was intended to be a year.

Sarah was a very talented artist and she supported her son, Paul in his art which led him to Uni to study Graphic Design! She had a passionate love and knowledge of music of all genres. She was a competent violinist who also loved dancing. She was also fluent in French and, as a teenager, attended summer schools at the Sorbonne in Paris. Sarah also learned to play the guitar so that she could introduce her classes to music and singing.

Sarah and Daz have two children, Paul and Claire, and Sarah stopped teaching to become a housemother until both children were old enough to fend for themselves. Sarah did return to teaching and developed a keen interest in choral singing. For some time she sang with Watford Philharmonic Society and with The Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir in London.

Sarah and Claire both decided to follow a vegetarian diet on ethical grounds some 35 years ago and for the last 15 years have lived vegan. Sarah’s exploits in animal welfare and animal rights are well known. She became a member and committee member of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals representing them on the committee of Catholic Concern for Animals for whom she eventually became a Trustee. She was also a board member of the Animal Interfaith Alliance and a representative on the committee for interfaith the group Week of Prayer for World Peace. She also supported and fundraised for other groups, and her involvement was total commitment. She was known for her thoroughness when organising any activity. After retiring she travelled into London volunteering, on a regular basis for some time, in the Peta Offices. She loved being in an environment where staff brought dogs in to work. This actually reminds me of the stories told of her love of mice and rats and getting into trouble for taking mice into school in her blazer pocket or having them in her desk. Also, the time more recently, when she saw a terrified mouse on the pavement in Piccadilly Circus. She picked it up, emptied her sandwich box, put a few drops of water in the box and brought the mouse safely home to Watford. She was as tireless in her efforts to care for sick, injured or lost animals as she was for humankind.

The prayer chain for sick animals she has organised for a number of years is being continued, and Sarah was so happy that this would happen. Also, her connection with The Whiskers Syndicate in Indonesia, where she was known, affectionately, as Ma Sarah, will be continued.

In more recent years she also attended St. James’ Church in Piccadilly and was very much involved in the animal and eco groups of the church and was beginning to get involved in the Lay Singers.

Sarah was also supportive of organisations involved in helping the underprivileged of society, and it was not unknown for her, of her own volition, whilst helping homeless persons to find medical or dental help or accompany them to find suitable accommodation, support finding work, and providing them with new sleeping bags and even tents. She was also a member of the team here at St Michael’s supporting Foodbank.

She loved plants and flowers especially those growing wild. Being in a natural environment was something she really enjoyed. She loved walking around the coast and salt marshes of Essex and especially the idyllic Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Fingringhoe Wick where she and Daz spent many, many happy hours based in their static mobile home. They were both members of the Trust and Kew Gardens which was another favourite place to visit.

She was a very modest person, hated the limelight and very rarely talked of her own achievements and always treated everyone with respect and dignity.

Two weeks ago she told Fr Geoff that she had no regrets, anger or resentment toward the disease which she knew was taking her life. She had accepted it and decided to live every day as best she could. Hospital staff were all amazed at how upbeat and cheerful she remained, and she made many friends on the wards of Watford General and Mount Vernon Hospitals. She told Fr Geoff that she never had a bucket list to complete. She had lived a full life and her bucket list was her family, Paul, Claire and Daz…that is all she ever wanted.

However, what she also wanted was to see an end to all cruelty to all of creation and the damage we are doing to our planet. She prayed for peace and a will for us all to live together in harmony, regardless of colour, creed or species.

It is here that Sarah and Daz, Paul and Claire would like to say publicly a very big thank you to everyone they have met or been involved with in the NHS and the District nurses and Carers during recent times. These are the most amazing people who work above and beyond to support their patients.

Sarah died peacefully and remained, amazingly, totally pain free from the cancer throughout. She showed her usual courage and very strong faith with a final wish that we all continue to try and make this world a better place in everything we do.

This simple tribute sent to Daz by an ex-colleague and friend sums up Sarah so well,

“It is rare that a human being leaves the world in a better place than they found it.  You shared your life with one of those rarities.  Unlike the champion, words cannot do justice.  I can only grieve with you”.

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