“Once in a while you meet a person who stands out, even in a room full of people. Kath Marshall was one of those people.” Chris Dempster, Director of Education for NEAS.

It is with great sadness that we report the recent passing of Kathleen Marshall, the former Chair of our Board of Trustees.

Married to Joe, and based in Seaham, Kath, as she was known to friends and family, took her place on the board of what was then the Tyne and Wear Autistic Society, in 1991.

Qualified in Special Education she rose through the ranks quickly to become Head Teacher at Davenport School.

Mum-of-three, Kath then developed a personal interest in autism when her youngest son Peter received his own diagnosis.

Peter has been with the Society since he was four years old, and in residential services since he was nine. It was through her external role as a teacher of children with special needs, and as mum to Peter, that she began devoting her time to the Society and other charity work.

John Phillipson, Chief Executive Officer for NEAS, said:

Kath had just stepped down as a Trustee when I arrived as CEO. It was clear to me at that time that Kath had made a huge contribution and had given a massive amount of her time to the Society.

She was, and is remembered with great affection. She appears to have earned this affection through her kindness, integrity and sheer hard work. I unfortunately only had the good fortune to meet Kath once, but I have cause to think about her regularly because of her dedication in keeping the society on course through some very difficult times. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.

Friend and fellow former board member, Eva Gordon, echoed this sentiment. She said:

Kath was a tremendous source of support to me. I was really struggling trying to explain and articulate what I was going through with my own little boy and here was this head mistress, with her own autistic son. That’s how I heard about the Society. Kath was the first person I met who really understood me and Ross.

Kathleen was the daughter of an RAF navigator, and was sister to Judith and Michael. She is survived by husband, Joe, their three sons, Gerard, Paul and Peter, and two grandchildren.

Joe said:

We were married for 44 years and had a great life together. She was quite a woman. She was straight, fair and honest and she had the ability to talk to four people at once about four different subjects. That skill helped her do everything she did, and do it well.

Kath also supported the Summertime Trust, an organisation set up to provide holidays for families with disabled children.

Joe added:

She knew what it was like, you see. So she always made sure she did whatever she could to help others in the same boat.

During her time as Head Mistress and Chair of the Board of Trustees she also became a renowned speaker travelling the country and even appearing on television educating people on autism.

Don Walker, Trustee at NEAS, added:

Kath helped steer the Society through some very challenging times. She was a deeply religious lady who put her faith in action by always helping other people.

The North East Autism Society would like to publicly pay tribute to Kath for the many years of hard work, dedication and time given over to the service of others.

Chris Dempster, Director of Education, concluded:

Kath Marshall was a charismatic and remarkable person who had the ability to inspire and motivate others. The support and guidance she provided in those early days was invaluable and we will always be very grateful to her.