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Memorial held for Sam Verschueren
A memorial service was held at Salisbury Cathedral on 23 January 2010, to celebrate the life of Samantha Verschueren (2003 Year Leaver), who died on 22 August 2009, aged just 23. The service was well attended by Withington alumnae and staff members past and present, with Mrs Janet Pickering, Headmistress, paying tribute to Sam as part of the service.
Samantha struggled with health problems in the early years of her life, but despite this her love of reading and study shone through and, after attending Withington, she read Music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where she was also the Chapel Organ Scholar. After completing her degree, Sam became Director of Music at St Michael's Church, Basingstoke, gaining her Masters degree with Distinction at Southampton University a year later. Sam had just started a PhD in Medieval Musicology at the time of her death.
As part of the service, a combined choir comprising of choirs Sam was involved with during her life performed some of her favourite music. The choir included members from The St John Singers, Salisbury; The Choir of St Michael and All Angels, Bassett, Southampton; The Choir of St Michaels, Basingstoke; The Wessex Chamber Choir; The Sandham Singers and The Alumni Chapel Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge; and was conducted by Sam's uncle, Bob Chilcott, who first encouraged her to take up the organ aged 14. The service was preceded by an organ recital by Sam Hanson, one of Sam's good friends and who performed pieces he knew she particularly liked including Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A, and Vierne's Final from Symphony I.
Tributes to Sam were made by, amongst others, her supervisor at Southampton, Professor Mark Everist, and by The Revd Professor Keith Straughan, former Chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. A family tribute, taken from the Order of Service, read, "It is very hard to do justice to Sam in words, as she was truly full of live and love, which made her extremely popular and a very good friend to many. She demonstrated her strong Christian faith by always being prepared to put herself out for others, and had recently trained as a Samaritan. Sam was noted for her tremendous sense of humour, wit and fun, and for her love of a good cup of tea!"
At the memorial, Sam's family officially inaugurated the charity they have launched in her memory, the Living Water Africa Trust. The cause was one close to Sam's heart following a family holiday to Africa taken before her death, which left the Verschuerens horrified at the lack of clean water and the backbreaking treks communities faced each day simply to secure dirty water. Living Water Africa aims to solve the problem of access to safe drinking water in Africa, by raising funds towards water pumps, wells and filters, and education programmes, so that "safe and clean water can be on tap for a lifetime". Further information on the work of the charity, including details on how to make a donation, can be found at Living Water Africa's website.
Sam will be remembered with deep affection by everyone at Withington, and our thoughts remain with her family, including her sister, Sara, 2005 Year Leaver. A full obituary will be published for her in the 2010 edition of Withington Onwards.