A dance school stalwart who was an auntie to thousands has died just weeks before her 97th birthday.
Pupils and teachers of Elwick Academy of Dance had reached the interval of their annual pantomime show on Wednesday evening when word came through Rhoda Compton had died.
She had thousands of adopted nieces and nephews and loved by so many people.Geoff Lucas
She had been in the University Hospital of North Tees for the last three weeks after a fall and had been shown photos of the performance as she was kept up to date with how the school’s 69th show was proving a success.
Rhoda - also known as Rhoda Harwood Compton - had helped sister Freda Compton as she launched and ran the school and continued to help out following Freda’s death in 2010 at the age of 84.
Her nephew Geoff Lucas, 58, who runs the school alongside Leanne Jeffries and a team of seven other teachers, helped care for Rhoda with his cousin Jan Compton, 61.
He said: “She’s really known for being a supporter of all the arts in the town and known to so many people across the North East who called her Auntie Rhoda.
“She had thousands of adopted nieces and nephews and loved by so many people.
“She had so much love to give but never had children of her own and really she helped bring me up and we were very close.
“Jan and I would look after her together and we would take her out to the Jackson’s Wharf at the marina, which was her favourite place for lunch, and they would always go above and beyond for her.”
He said the cast of Pinocchio, which continues at Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre until Saturday, had done a fantastic job of completing their performance after the news came through of Rhoda’s passing, with many pupils, past and present, and former teachers in the audience.
He added: “We carried on and she would have been furious if we hadn’t and we got through it for her.”
The school was founded in 1949 and is now based at Bathgate Terrace, where around 80 pupils aged from 18-months-old to 21 take dance classes.
Rhoda went to Brougham School and worked at Hartlepool Laundry before she spent around 25 years as orderly at Hartlepool General Hospital.
Principal Leanne added: “She was just absolutely wonderful, we are all heartbroken and it was a massive shock when we heard.
“She was loved by everybody and she absolutely adored the children and they all called her Auntie Rhoda.
“She will be so missed.”