Tragedy as ‘popular and healthy’ Sheffield headteacher dies after short cancer battle

A 'popular' and 'strong' Sheffield headteacher has lost her battle with cancer, just two months after she was first diagnosed.

By Rahmah Ghazali
Monday, 17th May 2021, 12:28 pm

Judith Baxter 65, a headteacher of Bethany School sadly passed away on April 12 after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February despite being told she had another year to live.

And her death came as an absolute shock to her children, said daughter Hope Collins, as she was the "healthiest person I know."

She said: "She was in a much better shape than I am - she'd go to the gym, go jogging, play badminton and ate very healthily. She was so full of life so it's a big shock.

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Judith (right) with her daughter, Hope.

"My mum was a very strong woman. She raised six children on her own and she was one of the founders of the school so she was very, very independent and strong.

"She was an excellent public speaker so she had many friends and was very popular with everybody."

She said her mother had complained about her health about a year ago but brushed it off, thinking that it was due to her age.

"The thing about pancreatic cancer is, it is hard to catch until it's in final stages.

From left: Abbey, 36, Joe, 34, Faith 32, Judith, Grace, 30, Hope, 28 and Joy 26.

"About a year ago, she felt a bit off, but she wouldn't go to the doctor because she thought nothing was really wrong and that she was just getting older.

"She didn't know until she found out it was already in the final stages," she said.

She added Judith's passing has left a huge void within the community as she was a popular headteacher, with a busy social life.

"She was a church member and had a badminton club. After her passing, we have been overwhelmed by the community who had sent us many cards and flowers.

Judith Baxter died at the age of 65. Picture by Hope Collins

"When my mum was poorly, we had people bringing meals everyday for her," she said.

Despite her busy schedule, she always had time for her family, said Hope.

"If we needed her, she’d be there with a drop of a hat. She would be there for us,” she said.

Her children now have set up a fundraising page for the school, in memory of Judith and in a bid to continue her legacy.

"Before her passing, she was very concerned with how the school would run so what we could do now is to help by raising money for the school.

"She’s left some money in her will for the school but she wasn’t a very wealthy woman so it was not as much as she’d like to and she told me to tell everyone not to buy her flowers but use the money to give to the school.

"We are absolutely blown away with the generosity and this shows how beloved she was.

"After two weeks, we have collected over £3,000 so we are really pleased about that. My mum would have been absolutely delighted with it."

Hope said the family has also launched a fundraising campaign for St Luke's Hospice where her mother was treated.

Her funeral was held yesterday and aired live on Zoom, which was attended virtually by 170 families.

Judith left behind six children and seven grandchildren, with one on the way.

To support the fundraising campaign, please go here.