Good morning, My name is Fumiko Ferguson and I have lived in the UK for
the past 43 years. I was very honored and feel privileged to be asked
to share some of my memories of Miss Leonora Lea. Many of us here have
our own memories of our great teacher and leader, who passed away exactly
30 years ago today.
To be honest, when Nakamura -sensei asked me to speak about Miss Lea,
I really wasn't sure whether I could stand up in front of all of you.
But when I thought about it, I remembered the influence Miss Lea had on
the stages in my life, as a schoolgirl; as a young person leaving home;
and as an adult and mother. And I also remembered Miss Lea's firm encouragement
when I was worr0ied about doing anything, to go on and do it.
So here I am..
When I was at Shoin High School, (a long time ago), I entered an English
public speaking contest, sponsored by Mainichi News paper. The speech
I made was titled'Times Flies Like an Arrow'. As a youngster, I thought
I knew what time flies like an arrow meant. However, it has taken me almost
45 years to fully comprehend the meaning.
It is 30 years today since Miss Leonora Lea died. I can vividly remember
when her sister, Helen, rang to tell me of Miss Lea's passing away and
also the funeral service, on Nov 2nd 1971 at All Saints Church in Banstead,
Surrey as if it was yesterday. Here is a little notebook that Miss Helen
Lea kept, the list of names of the people who came to her house after
the funeral for some refreshment. Some of you may know or remember the
If may read out some of the names: Andrew Y Nakamura (Theological student)
Luke T Ikami( " ) David Y Sakushi ( " )Paul T Kabashima ( " ) Marion Wiltar
Revd and Mrs David Chamberlain Elizabeth Hale Revd and Mrs Wood-Robinson
Eleanor Foss Kathleen Shepherd Teruko Seeley Keiko Hisamatsu Etc.
It was in the Autumn of 1971 that Miss Lea finally returned to England.
She was suffering from cancer of oesophagus and was not well. She went
straight into Trinity Hospice, where she was looked after in her final
days. All that time, she sent me a message that she did not want to see
anyone as she wanted us to remember her, not as a person in the passage
of a terminal disease, but for the things that we treasured in her life.
And that's what we should do today, remember the blessings that she brought
into our lives.
So what do we remember of Miss Lea?
Many of us here, especially the "older generation" like me would have
known Miss Lea personally, either by working with her or as her students.
Some know her through reading the material that has been written about
her. Others will know her through the legacy that she has left in this
place. But what was she like?
Words that spring to mind for me are many:
・ A great teacher
・ A leader
・ Clever, shrewd
・ Perhaps a little bit naughty! I remember that she would take great pleasure
from a glass of whiskey.
But what made Miss Lea like this? What made her the woman that she was?
・ Was it her family background?
・ Was it her education and environment?
・ Was it her Christian faith?
Miss Leonora Edith Lea was a British subject, born in Nova Scotia, Canada
in 1896. She was the child of the missionary, Rev. Arthur Lea. Miss Lea
first came to Japan as a two-year-old child. Her education took Place
in Japan, Canada and England. In England, she went to a prestigious school
called Cheltenham ladies College in Gloucestershire. In 1921 she obtained
a Bachelor of Art degree from London University. Her teaching career started
in High School in Toronto, Canada.
As many of you may know already, Miss Lea had four sisters and two brothers,
all of whom were born in Japan. Some of you will remember Leila Lea, who
was a mathematics teacher at St Michaels International School at one time.
Miss Dorothy Lea was a French teacher. Mrs. Hilda Aitchison who was married
to a doctor in Canada was a nurse. She had a son. One of Miss Lea's brothers
was a well-known meteorologist who had worked in SE Asia and Africa. He
was married with three children. Miss Helen Lea was a nursing tutor at
King's College Hospital Nursing School. Through Miss Lea's kind arrangement
Teruko Kawano and I were privileged to attend the Nursing School at King's
College Hospital (now a part of London University). Even after I was married
and settled in England, Miss Helen Lea treated me and my family as her
Some of you who met Helen will agree with me that meeting and talking
with her reminded us of her sister Leonora Lea because they looked and
had similar mannerisms. Until Miss Helen Lea died in 1990, aged 91, I
was fortunate enough to have met all of Miss Lea's sister, except for
Hilda who lived in Canada older brothers. However I did meet one of her
brother's lives and their three children. I would like to share with you
some of the things Miss Helen Lea used to tell me about her family life.
Apparently Miss Lea's father, when he was the Bishop of Kyushu, was the
first person to drive a car in Kyushu.
When he was on furlough (holiday) in England and preaching at a church
in London, after the service a lady in the congregation took off her pearl
necklace and gave it to the Bishop, saying that she would like him to
buy a car with the necklace. He bought a Model T Ford.
In those days there was no one who could service the car in Japan and
therefore this clergyman learnt to strip down the car himself and had
to be his own mechanic. As the roads in Kyushu were too narrow, he had
to have the axles shortened. While Bishop Lea and his wife were in Japan,
the most of children were sent to a boarding school called St Michael's
School in Limpsfield, back home in Surrey, England. They saw their parents
only once every four or five years. And during their school holidays an
unmarried aunt looked after them.
At that time Leonora, the oldest sister had started her teaching career
in Canada. Helen told me that, as the next oldest sister, she was given
only five pounds a year allowance to clothe the children. She had to buy
the material to make the clothes for themselves. And so Helen became a
very good dressmaker.
In 1927, our Miss Lea returned to Japan as a USPG missionary and taught
at Shoin High School in addition to her active work in the mission field.
As we all know, she spent her entire war years in Kobe. Miss Lea was a
great educator and leader. She was the headmistress of St Michael's School,
the principal of Shoin College. She also taught at Kobe University of
So, Miss Lea came from a Christian missionary family, which didn't have
money for luxuries in life. She was educated to be a teacher, but also
took on her family's faith for herself and committed to use her gifts
as a missionary in the service of her God.
To be honest as a young girl at St Michael's school I was a little afraid
f this formidable foreign lady(Seiyo obasan).
Many of us remember her as a kind person, but also we remember her calling
us naughty girls or naughty boys at some time and not enjoying the experience.
I am sure Rev Nakamura will not mind me telling you that Miss Lea also
called him a naughty boy. He has obviously changed his ways.
We know that Miss Lea was quite strict, but really for our own good, so
that we would understand the difference between right and wrong. Without
my parents knowledge Miss Lea arranged for me to sit for an entrance exam
to Shoin High School. I took the exam and I started Shoin the following
day. To this day I was sure that Miss Lea had 'arranged' that Shoin would
accept me. I am grateful to Miss Lea that I had the opportunity to study
at both Shoin High School and St Michael's. Before going to study at eh
nursing school in England, I had a year to spare, so Miss Lea again invite
me to join Shoin Junior College. I think again Miss Lea must have thought
that I could spend my time beneficially before leaving for England. She
really must have spent a long time thinking about the good of per pupils
and planning a path for each one. I believe that she really did want the
best for us all.
In 1958 Miss Lea arranged for me to go to London to study to be a nurse.
Unknown to me though, she was also making the same arrangement for Teruko
Kawano. We didn't discover that we were going to the same nursing school
at the same time until we went to book our tickets for the boat to England.
How Shrewd Miss Lea was. I'm sure that she was testing Teruko and me.
She wanted to be sure that we were committed to go to England on our own,
but Miss Lea also knew the value of friendship in a strange place. Very
clever. While I was at the nursing college, Miss Lea made a visit to England.
As customary in Japan she was given a gift of a beautiful reds dressing
gown by the students of Shoin College for her trip. Miss Lea gave the
dressing gown to me saying that it was too luxurious for her and she thought
that I was an appropriate person to use it as I was an ex-Shoin student.
I am sure that she could have used it herself but she must have thought
that I could have benefited from it more as a poor student in cold London.
I'm sure many of us here have examples of when Miss Lea put our needs
before her own.
In 1963 I married and we spent our first year of marriage in Japan. From
1963 to 1964, my husband and I were teachers at St Michael's School working
under Miss Lea. One incident from that year stands out in my memory. Together
with two other teachers we took the children to a camp in Yoshima. We
all had a wonderful time. As we came back to Kobe Port, there was Miss
Hirose, sent by Miss Lea to welcome us back. After having made sure that
all the children were safely returned to their parents, the four teachers
were taken to a lovely restaurant called Escargot. What a considerate
boss Miss Lea was!
The lat time I saw Miss Lea was in July 1971, when she came back to England
to sty with her sister Helen in Banstead. She was already ill at that
stage. An example of how thoughtful she always was, in spite of being
unwell, she brought two teal toy airplane for my sons. As I was going
to Kobe with my sons that summer, Miss Lea also suggested that I should
take them to play in her garden in Kumochi Dori so that they will have
somewhere to play. She also said that Hisako-sann (Yamamoto) would be
able to help out with looking after the boys.
So what did make her the way she was?
We know that she wasn't driven by material things, she gave so much away.
We know that she wasn't driven by power or reputation - she did things
quietly and never took advantage of the opportunities that her success
brought, unless they would benefit one of her pupils. Miss Lea received
an award, the Fourth Order of the Sacred Treasure from Emperor for her
efforts towards education in Japan as well as other awards from Hyogo
I believe Miss Lea was such a good example for us because she lived her
life to a motto. And that motto is the motto of St Michael's.
For the glory of God and the hope of youth.
Miss Lea was driven by a need to be a servant of God and to take his love
to the young people around her. She knew that to be a servant of God,
she would need to follow His example, to give without counting the cost,
to love without being loved back and to be an example of integrity and
goodness. She knew how to have fun and I'm sure that she struggled to
live this out at times. But ultimately Miss Lea saw her role as building
the kingdom of heaven in the people of Kobe.
So going back to the beginning, Miss Lea wanted to be remembered for the
things of her life, not the manner of her death - to bring hope and encouragement.
The debt I, and many others, owe to Miss Lea is very great, we can not
repay her. But repayment is not what she wanted. In her life she wanted
us to follow the motto, to live our lives: For the glory of God and the
hope of youth.
If we don't know how to do that, Miss Lea has left us with memories of
her which set us an excellent example and showed us through her life,
the blessing and love of God and she also taught us to follow the example
So I know that she'll be rejoicing in heaven today, perhaps with a glass
of heavenly whiskey, if we can live up that motto,
For the glory of God and the hope of youth.