Lady Brenda Beecham
Brenda Beecham supported Israel but wanted it to recognise Arabs’ rights and withdraw from the settlements
Brenda Beecham, my wife of 42 years, has died aged 63 of bowel cancer. Having been diagnosed with the disease two years ago, she made a BBC documentary about it with her friend Sheilagh Matheson, and, later, a DVD, Have Bag Will Travel, for colorectal patients about living with a stoma. Keen to address the psychological impact of cancer, she also produced a booklet, Moving Forward, distributed by the charity Coping With Cancer.
Born and educated in Newcastle, the daughter and sister of doctors, Brenda worked as a nurse and health visitor, as a volunteer National Childbirth Trust teacher and as a counsellor, supervisor and trainer for the charity Relate. Much interested in psychotherapy, she took an MA at Durham University in guidance and counselling in 1994. She then turned to life coaching, working particularly with doctors.
Brought up in a committed Zionist family, she spent time on a kibbutz as a teenager and later followed her mother as chair of local women’s Zionist organisations. A passionate supporter of Israel, she wanted the state to realise the ideals of its founders, not least in relation to the rights of its Arab minority, and to withdraw from the settlements. Influenced by her sister, Ros, she became involved with Windows for Peace, a charity bringing together young Jewish and Arab Israelis and Palestinians. With her oldest friend, Judith Sischy, she raised funds for two of the charity’s summer schools in Edinburgh.
A campaigner for Soviet Jewry in the 1980s, she twice visited the Soviet Union, remaining in contact with several refuseniks who eventually succeeded in emigrating. Latterly, she supported organisations working with asylum seekers and refugees in Tyneside.
She also supported, not without occasional justifiable resentment, my consuming interest in politics and, despite periodically threatening never to vote Labour again during the last 13 years, she always did. She was horrified by several of the coalition government’s policies.
Brenda loved clothes, travel, our home and garden, dancing, music of all kinds and EastEnders. She was the embodiment of joie de vivre, generosity and warmth. She is survived by me and our children, Sara and Richard, and by Ros.