Obituary – Sally Lawrence

A tribute to Sally Lawrence from Lea Rowing Club, who sadly passed away in May

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It is with huge sadness that we announce the death of Sally Lawrence who passed away on the afternoon of 1 May aged 60, after being diagnosed with cancer only eight weeks earlier.  She was the heart and soul of Lea Rowing Club and, to the wider rowing community, she was one of the best known of its members.

Sally was born on 8 March 1960 and grew up in Derbyshire. She studied geography at Durham and later attended the University of Tennessee where she met her future husband Daniel.  She later qualified as a chartered accountant.

Sally loved the outdoors and had many hiking and cycling tour adventures at home and overseas. It was on a local cycling excursion with her family that she first came across Lea Rowing Club.

Her connection with rowing started in 2000 when, like so many parents, she brought her young daughter and son along to the club to learn to cox and row.  She loved telling the story of when her son, Henry, coxed the club’s Thames Cup eight in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever to cox at Henley Royal at the tender age of nine.  He had to have half his weight in sandbags in the boat.

Sally’s support of the club started around that time, firstly helping to look after the juniors and then – using her accountancy skills – she looked after the club finances.  Her involvement grew from there. As well as being club secretary for many years, she was soon looking after race entries, boat spares and repairs, membership records, new members, helping to organise the two annual club regattas and much more.

She was always the person who would see the need for something and step up to make it happen. She was a key part of making the club more welcoming, turning it from somewhere that was focused just on elite and performance rowing to be somewhere welcoming to everyone, whatever their ability, experience or rowing potential.

Sally touched the lives of everyone at the Lea and beyond, and rowing on the Lea will never be the same without her

Sally was the epitome of inclusiveness, making sure people enjoyed their rowing above all else. She gave so much of her time with that in mind and could never say no to anyone who wanted help. She would support anyone who had specific needs, from people with physical and mental challenges to a local group of Hasidic Jewish women who just love being on the water.  She encouraged people to try new things, train harder, put themselves up for races, because she thought they’d have fun. She knew there was much more to rowing than winning a race.

On top of all the organisational work, she found the time to take up coxing, rowing and later coaching. When anyone asked her to be in their crew, she always assumed it was to cox. She would be terrified, but inwardly excited, when she realised that she was needed to row or scull and was delighted when she won her sculling and rowing novices.

Sally coxed many groups within the club, particularly the masters, and had many successful trips to the World Masters in men’s and women’s crews where she was in demand from other clubs too.  Sally had an authority in the boat and you instantly knew that she was fully briefed and in control.

As if all this wasn’t demanding enough, in 2014 Sally became Secretary to the Eastern Region Rowing Committee getting involved in many of their plans and making sure that the club supported regional events as much as possible.

Sally was to be awarded the British Rowing Medal of Merit this year, an award which recognises individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to regional and club rowing. She knew that it was to be presented to her, but, due to the lockdown, she was unable to receive it in person.

Sally touched the lives of everyone at the Lea and beyond, and rowing on the Lea will never be the same without her. It’s hard to think of anyone who has contributed more. Her constant presence, enthusiasm and infectious smile will be very sorely missed by everyone who knew her.

We want to honour the inclusive spirit that Sally so ardently fostered and, to do this, have set up a fund in her name here. This will help us to be able to carry on her work aiming to help people overcome barriers and challenges and, above all, to be able to have fun rowing.

Sally will not be forgotten.

Thanks to Lea Rowing Club for their tribute.  

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