Tributes to West End Ruthie's sister

NOEL Henshall - sister of stage star Ruthie - has died in the United States.Noel, a well-known and colourful figure in Suffolk, collapsed at her apartment at Grass Valley, 180 miles north of San Francisco, and was rushed to the local Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital intensive care unit where she died last Sunday.

SUFFOLK'S West End and Broadway star Ruthie Henshall is today devastated following the death of her sister Noel.

The 49-year-old, who was a well-known and colourful figure in Suffolk collapsed at her apartment at Grass Valley, 180 miles north of San Francisco, and was rushed to the local Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital intensive care unit where she died last Sunday.

But West End star Ruthie, who lives at Manningtree, has vowed she will sing for her heart out for her sister when she appears in a major concert in Wales this weekend with opera star Bryn Terfel, Michael Ball and Connie Fisher.

She said: “It is going to be very hard because we are endlessly in tears, but I'm going to sing my heart out for Noel.”

Her parents, David and Gloria Henshall, of Stutton, and two of her sisters, Abigail and stage star Ruthie, were at her bedside at the time.

At the height of the holiday season, with fully-booked planes, they had to use two different airlines to reach her quickly. Noel's twin sister Susan, who lives in Ipswich was delayed by family concerns and was at the point of flying out to join them when the news came that Noel had died.

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Mr Henshall said: “The whole family is heartbroken and shattered.

“She was such a bright, charismatic, talented person and lifted the lives of everybody she met. I spoke to her on the phone in hospital before we flew out to her but by the time we arrived she had drifted into a coma and she never came out of it. Her liver had ceased to function.

“She had been suffering from severe back trouble and had taken too many painkillers.”

Noel, 49, sold advertising for the Evening Star and its sister paper the East Anglian Daily Times among other jobs before she settled in America, after visiting a friend about 11 years ago. She worked in advertising for the Grass Valley newspaper, The Union. She also wrote what the head of the daily newspaper Jeff Ackerman described as brilliantly funny articles for the paper.

He said: “I asked her to join the editorial staff permanently but she was also a marvellous saleswoman and made a lot more money doing that.”

At the request of clients, she also wrote comedy adverts which went out on local radio.

She became an American citizen, was married and divorced over there but had no children.

Her best friend, Kellen Fisher, said: “Her death has stunned the town. She was so popular, so clever and such great company.”

Mrs Fisher organised a memorial meeting in the Grass Valley theatre on Tuesday. It was attended by the Henshall family and about 150 friends, clients and colleagues, many of whom stepped forward to tell stories of how Noel had enhanced their lives or helped their businesses with her flair for words.

The family had Noel cremated in Grass Valley and have brought her remains back for burial here. There will be a service to be announced later.

n. Send your tributes to Noel to Starnews@eveningstar.co.uk or write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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