Susan Waller Thomas obituary | local government

My aunt, Susan Waller Thomas, who died of cancer aged 80, was an inspiring and dedicated teacher, councillor, Lord Mayor and Sheriff in Swansea and West Glamorgan. She was compassionate and fiercely intelligent and believed deeply in the power of advocacy to change lives and create opportunity.

Born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, Susan was the daughter of Mary (née Peasgood) and Freddie Amoore, an RAF engineer. She described her school years in Lincolnshire as appallingly awful, and she then dedicated many years of her life to young people and to improving the experience they would have of education and society in general. She always listened to what people had to say and never dismissed the concerns of others.

Sue studied psychology and English at the University of Liverpool, graduating in 1963. In Liverpool she met Derek Waller, a mathematician. After their marriage in 1964, they moved to South Wales, where Derek became a lecturer in mathematics at the University College of Swansea (later Swansea University). They intended to stay for just two years, but instead built their lives in Wales.

Sue has taught English at Gowerton Girls’ High School, West Glamorgan Institute and Gorseinon College. In 1978, Derek died of leukemia at the age of 37, leaving Sue to the parents of their three young children – something she did with immense dedication and courage.

Sue also had an extraordinary commitment to the community and was actively involved in Swansea’s services for refugees from the Vietnam War. She was an English teacher and advocate for Vietnamese refugee families, many of whom became lifelong friends.

In the early 1980s, she was elected as a Liberal Democrat councilor for Newton ward on Swansea Council. After many years as a councillor, Sue was Lord Mayor of Swansea in 2007 and Sheriff of West Glamorgan in 2011.

In 2008, Sue married Alan Thomas, an academic from Swansea University. Their home was a place for delicious dinners for family and friends, barbecues and Easter egg hunts. She continued to support causes close to her heart, including charities for young carers and sponsorship of guide dogs for the blind. She was Honorary President of the Gower Badgers Cricket Club.

Alan died in 2011. Sue is survived by her three children, Julia, John and Duncan, six grandchildren and one great-grandson; by his stepchildren, Stefan and Jo, his brother, John, his nephew, Jonathan, and me.