Talented former teacher will not be forgotten

Tributes have been paid to a mother, grandmother and ‘excellent’ former teacher who taught hundreds of children locally over more than 30 years.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 5:17 pm
Sonia and Wilf Hugill
Sonia and Wilf Hugill

Sonia Hugill died on Friday, February 12, following a lengthy period of declining health. She was 81.

A mother of three and grandmother of four, she and local footballing legend Wilf Hugill had been married for nearly 50 years when Wilf passed away in 2015.

Daughter Kelly Miller said: “She was just my mum. She was always there for all of us.

“She was a massive help when the grandchildren came along. She looked after all four of them so we could go to work. She supported us all.”

Worthing born and bred, Sonia attended Elm Grove school and then Horsham High School for Girls, travelling by train on the ‘Steyning stinker’ before the Beeching cuts.

She excelled at athletics and swimming but was so inspired by one of her teachers that she set her sights on a career in the classroom.

After completing her training and working for a year in Kent, she left for Singapore, where she taught at a Ministry of Defence School for three years.

Following her return home to Worthing, Sonia was introduced to Wilf, then a left-back for Worthing Football Club, at the club’s home ground in Woodside Road, Worthing.

With romance blossoming, she was considering going abroad again when Wilf gave her an ultimatum: choose travelling overseas again, or him. In her own words, Sonia made the right choice and the couple were married in Washington in 1965, and made their home in Worthing.

They later moved to their house in Tarring, which Wilf, a carpenter by trade, had built himself.

The same year, after a year teaching in Crawley, Sonia moved to Worthing County Secondary School for Girls.

The couple’s first son, Matthew, was born in 1968, with Jared following in 1969.

With the arrival of Kelly, in 1971, Sonia left teaching and started a playgroup with her younger sister, Corinne, at the old Worthing Rugby Club in Castle Road, Worthing.

It ran successfully until 1975. when, with both boys at school, Sonia returned to teaching, this time at White Styles Middle School, Sompting, where she taught several-hundred children between 1976 and 1997.

Phyllis Hill met Sonia when she started teaching at White Styles, and she and husband Gordon struck up a close friendship with Sonia and Wilf. “I met her in 1979 and we became good friends,” said Phyllis. “I think we both had the same sense of humour.

“She was a loyal friend. Friendship meant a lot to her.”

Phyllis said Sonia was ‘always up for an adventure’ and the couples went on many walking trips together.

“We had some great times,” she said. “We went on holiday with them probably ten times – we spent a lot of that time laughing.”

Sonia had lived with a chronic health problem for most of her life but it was only in 1977 that it was diagnosed as coeliac disease. Two years later, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Phyllis said while Sonia’s diabetes was never a laughing matter, it was often the source of fun. “When she was low on sugar, she would get very difficult,” she said. “We used to have to make her laugh in order for her to have some sugar.”

After leaving White Styles, Sonia ran the pupil referral unit based at Lyndhurst First School in Worthing, working with children with additional needs.

Phyllis said: “She was an excellent teacher – very, very talented. She was particularly talented with those children.

“To that particular type of child, she was one of the best.”

Wilf’s death nearly six years ago hit Sonia hard.

“Wilf was the love of her life,” said Pyllis. “I knew that her life would never be complete again. She used to say, ‘I want to be with Wilf’. Wilf worshipped her.”

Kelly said knowing her mum believed she and Wilf would be reunited had made her loss a little easier.

“She totally believed she was going to him,” said Kelly. “She used to say, ‘I know he’s waiting for me’. How lovely to have that, that much love.”

Sonia leaves her three children, grandchildren Olivia, Yasmin, Isabelle and Jacob, and her sisters Diane, Sheila and Corinne.

Her funeral will be held at 10am on Wednesday, March 3, at Worthing Crematorium. Guests may attend by invitation only but the service will be streamed live at www.obitus.com – username Xebe3391 password 114250

Donations in Sonia’s memory can be made to Diabetes UK, care of Ian Hart Funeral Service, on 01903 206299.