A FORMER headteacher from County Durham whose passion for education inspired her daughters to follow in her footsteps has died, aged 101.

Minnie Fryer taught generations of youngsters during her career which started before the Second World War and spanned villages and towns across the county.

Her longest stint was in Newton Aycliffe's Sugar Hill Infants School where she climbed the ranks to headteacher in the 1970s.

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It was only down to circumstance that the great-grandmother stumbled across the post when she took in her daughters Dorothy and Jane following an unexpected move to the new town on account of her policeman husband in 1955.

Originally from Hetton-le-Hole, Mrs Fryer was born on June 9, 1916, to May and Thomas Raine, who while serving with the Durham Light Infantry went missing and was presumed dead during the First World War.

Younger sister to Lily, Mrs Fryer saw her father only once but remembered her mother keeping a light in the window and setting an extra place at the table until she was about 11 years old.

The trio moved to Houghton-le-Spring where she attended Houghton Grammar School before going on to complete teacher training from 1934 to 1936 at Neville's Cross College, Durham - where her main subject was geography.

She started her career in 1937 at South Hetton Junior Instruction Centre and from then until 1945 taught in Ludworth, Lumley and Washington.

In 1941 Mrs Fryer married Eric Fryer, a police sergeant, who died in 1991.

The pair had daughter Dorothy in 1946 and Marjorie Jane in 1950.

In 1955 the couple, with only three days' notice, were due to Mr Fryer’s work told to move to Newton Aycliffe where they settled.

On taking her little girls for enrolment at Sugar Hill Infants School, the teacher was snapped up herself.

Mrs Fryer later became deputy head, then headteacher and stayed on until 1978.

Paying tribute to their mother, retired headteachers Dorothy Hope, 71, and Jane Katsambis, 67, said: “Teaching was her life and passion as it was for us.

"It’s a privilege to teach and to be in charge of a school - it’s in the blood.

"She could talk about education all day with great clarity and was always interested in what we were doing at school.”

Mrs Katsambis added: "She showed me that women can succeed, are capable have a voice, are intelligent and should be proud of who they are."

After living with dementia for a number of years, Mrs Fryer died as a result of frailty and old age on Sunday, January 7, at home with family friend Maureen Longstaff, who cared for her alongside Mrs Hope and Mrs Katsambis.

She is survived by her two daughters, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A funeral will take place at St Clare’s Church, Newton Aycliffe, at midday on Tuesday, January 23, followed by a cremation at Durham Crematorium and a celebration of Mrs Fryer’s life at Woodham Golf and Country Club.

The family has asked that any donations are made in lieu of Dementia UK.