Ruthie sings for sister

WEST END star Ruthie Henshall sang a moving version of Time Heals Everything during a memorial service to celebrate the life of her sister Noel.

WEST END star Ruthie Henshall sang a moving version of Time Heals Everything during a memorial service to celebrate the life of her sister Noel.

Friends and family remembered 49-year-old Noel at the service in Stutton Church on Saturday.

Each member of the Henshall family paid tributes to the saleswoman - who died last month in California - contributing their memories, a poem or a song.

Ruthie remembered frustrated Christmases when she was not allowed to open her presents because Noel and twin Susan were sleeping off a night of Yuletide celebration.

Ruthie's husband Tim Howar gave a powerful version of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water while sister Abigail read extracts from a piece Noel had written for her a newspaper about coming to terms with life on the other side of the Atlantic entitled The Americanisation of Noel.

Susan sought refuge in poetry as conventional words could not express adequately how she felt. But in keeping with the tone of the service, the poem was entitled A Celebration.

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The family were determined to make the event a celebration of Noel's life and the positive influence she had on others.

Her mother, Gloria, read out an email from Noel's best friend in California, Kellen Fisher, which she considered best captured her personality.

It said: “I'll never forget the first time I saw her. She marched into the office in a skin-tight leopard print outfit and the most amazing shoes. And I just had to meet her.

“She always made us laugh. She had a plastic toy praying mantis which she dragged on a lead round the office like a pet dog. Noellie introduced me to what she called retribution shopping. My husband spends gobs of money on his racing cars and she said I should spend the same amount on fun things for myself and really nice dinners - and that we did.”

Noel, who worked in advertising on a Californian paper called The Union, had lived for the past 10 years in America.

She died in hospital, with her family at her bedside, after collapsing at her home. It is believed she was suffering from back trouble, and may have taken too many painkillers.

Her father David, said his daughter - like her namesake, Noel Coward - had a natural talent to amuse and was a talented writer.

“She had this genius for lifting other people's spirits - even though, sadly, in the end it appears she couldn't lift her own.”

He said the family had been inundated with cards and letters telling them, “without exception”, how Noel always made them laugh.

“Laughter is her legacy. To be remembered for this and for so many long-lasting loving friendships is simply wonderful.”

He added that one of her greatest accomplishments was a piercing two fingered whistle which could stop a New York taxi dead in its tracks - a talent which Ruthie proved she had passed onto her younger sisters.

Noel's funeral took place in Grass Valley, 180 miles north of San Francisco, where she lived. Her remains were then brought back to Suffolk and she was buried at St Peter's Church.