Brenda Fowler 1933-2008
Dr David Yates remembers Brenda Fowler, whose contributions to the Department of Biochemistry 'live on in a bright and committed office, a caring environment and memories of laughter'.
Brenda Fowler joined the Department of Biochemistry in 1975 as a Departmental Secretary, working in a busy office. Her husband Malcolm was already well known as the Medical School glassblower, and the Fowler team were loyal members of the Faculty for many years. Brenda quickly established herself as a key member of the office and Department both for her incredible energy and sense of humour, and for her liberal interpretation of her job description! In the 1970’s, secretaries were expected to type letters and papers, but this was a minor part of Brenda’s role. She was above all interested in people, and visitors to the office were both welcomed and integrated into the social life of the Department. Faculty parties and dinners were eagerly seized upon by Brenda, and the office team was mobilised to the cause.
In 1989 secretarial staff underwent regrading, and Brenda’s job description was properly revised to that of Office Manager, reflecting her wider role within the Department. But no Blue Book could begin to do justice to Brenda’s real contribution: networking between students, researchers and staff, enabling the Administrator and Head of Department to work with the groundswell of opinion.
In 1991, Brenda took over responsibility for the administration of Admissions, dealing with new students and ‘mothering’ those coming for interviews; in 1992 she was instrumental in helping design and plan a new departmental office in the Lillian Hawker wing. She retired in 1996 with Malcolm to enjoy their retirement together.
Outside Biochemistry, Brenda enjoyed an energetic and full social life in Winscombe. Both she and Malcolm were keen tennis players, and Brenda was a leading figure in local amateur dramatics. Malcolm was also heavily involved with the local scouts. When they celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary in Winscombe village hall the cake was iced half with a tennis court, half with a stage and players.
After their retirement, Brenda and Malcolm kept in touch with the Department, returning for both celebrations and funerals, and lived life to the full with their friends and families. It was with great sadness that we learned that Brenda had mouth cancer, and succumbed to secondaries despite treatment. In typical fashion, Brenda organised her own funeral to be a time of rejoicing and not grieving. The church was filled with sunflowers, and mourners told to wear colours, not black.
Our sympathies go to Malcolm, daughters Ann and Kim and families on their loss, but Brenda’s legacy will live on in a bright and committed department office, a caring environment and memories of laughter. She will be remembered with great fondness by all who knew her.