In Loving Memory of a dear friend and neighbour. Rest in Peace.
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NeilMacmillan Cancer Support
In loving memory of James Neil McKenzie who sadly passed away on 7th February 2021, aged 72 years.
Neil was born in Liverpool in 1948, the youngest of 3 children. Leaving school in 1965, his testimonial described him as "of general average ability" - but noted his 'quiet effectiveness which with growing maturity can lead to his achieving the full potentiality of his gifts". I think this may be the only documented description of him being quiet!!
He dedicated his life to teaching and primary education. His first teaching post came in 1969 at St Matthew's RC Primary School in Skelmersdale, Merseyside - a posting that had a profound impact in shaping his personal and professional life. At the school, he became Deputy Head in 1974 under the guidance of Jack Baron, his friend and mentor, until 1979 when he was appointed to his first headteacher role in Kent.
He was head of St Edward's RC school in Sheerness from 1979 until 1990 when he accepted the headship of St Thomas of Canterbury RC school in Rainham, where he remained until his retirement from education (at least on a full time basis).
It's difficult to capture adequately the impact he had in his career. Perhaps it is best summarised by the number of former pupils and teachers who have been in touch with our family since he passed away. They describe him as a headteacher who endeavoured to give every pupil the best possible start to their education (albeit instilling a little fear every now and then!) and a fierce champion of his staff, building a working environment to enable teachers to teach. That legacy is also reflected in the lasting friendships with many parents and teachers over the course of his 30+ years as a head.
As mentioned above, his personal life was also shaped by school. Neil met Susan Livesey in the staffroom of St Matthew's. They were married in Wigan in 1971 and would have celebrated their 50th Anniversary in April this year. He was her constant source of strength and love through her adult life, facing the many challenges to health and wellbeing at her side.
Neil is survived by Susan, his son Andrew, Nicola and grandchildren Alice and Emma, whom he loved deeply.
His funeral is set for Friday 9th April. Sadly, lockdown guidelines mean the ceremony will be severely restricted to close family and friends. However, once lockdown is over, there will be a social event to celebrate his life properly - all will be welcome.