Permanent memorial for Wirral schoolgirl who 'won the hearts and minds' of many

Permanent memorial for Wirral schoolgirl who 'won the hearts and minds' of many

John and Laura Thornton with the sculpture in memory of their daughter Sophia, pictured with sculptor Wolfgang Eibl, and some of the pupils from Hilbre High School.

John and Laura Thornton with the sculpture in memory of their daughter Sophia.

Sophia Thornton was just 11-years-old when she died in 2013.

First published in News Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

THE life of a young Wirral girl described as a “bright star” at the centre of her family’s lives has been honoured with a permanent memorial at the school she cherished so much.

Although born with Cerebral Palsy, Sophia Elizabeth Thornton’s death on January 18, 2013 was completely unexpected.

The 11-year-old had attended Hilbre High School the day before and even took part in a trip to the pantomime but Sophia – who used a wheelchair and communicated via a synthesiser – took ill the next morning, passing away that evening at Arrowe Park Hospital.

On Monday, a sculpture designed in the form of a bandana – Sophia’s trademark - was unveiled in the centre of Hilbre High School to remember the Year 7 pupil who loved doing all things a “typical” 11-year-old does which, according to dad John, often involving gossiping and shopping.

Wirral Globe:

Sophia Elizabeth Thornton was just 11-years-old when she died in January 2013.

Despite her disabilities, Sophie never gave up on what she wanted to do.

The keen guide always attended mainstream school and in the short time she spent at Hilbre High, “won the hearts and minds of many”.

“Sophia was our bright star, impish, smiling, and mischievous – a real character in every sense of the word,” said headteacher Jan Levenson at a special ceremony on Monday.

“Sophia taught us so much more than we taught her and it wasn’t long before she had me engaging our ‘thumbs up’ conversation about how her day at school was going.

“Yes, Sophia certainly had us well trained and we miss her.”

After Sophia’s death, classmates named a star in her honour and a small steel bandana was presented as the “Sophia Thornton Prize for Inclusiveness” at the school’s prize-giving last October.

But the school and family wanted a more permanent memorial.

Wirral Globe:
John and Laura Thornton with the sculpture, pictured with sculptor Wolfgang Eibl, and some of the pupils from Hilbre High School.

Designed by dad John and based on the Paisley pattern from one of Sophia’s own bandanas – which she always wore around her neck – the sculpture also incorporates the location of her star in the centre of the base.

The school raised the money to pay for the project by organising a ‘Bandana Day’, bag-packing at Morrisons in West Kirby and a sponsored walk but it soon became clear that the money raised would not cover both the materials and the production of the sculpture.

“The funds available just wouldn’t cover the costs involved,” said Wirral sculptor and metalworker Wolfgang Eibl, of Austrometal.

“But, when the school explained the situation and I realised that they were talking about Sophia, who I knew as a neighbour, I decided I would donate my time free-of-charge.

“It took two-and-a-half-weeks to create the sculpture, but I feel both proud and honoured to have been involved in this project.”

Monday’s ceremony was attended by Sophia’s parents, John and Laura, brother Sam, friends, classmates, teachers, school governors, Sophia’s helpers and support workers and guides from 2nd West Kirby, as well as generous sculptor Wolfgang.

“Sophia always wore a bandana – it was an aspect of her which everyone who knew her would recognise,” said dad John.

“She was the centre of our lives and we are still trying to learn how to cope without her.

“I’m delighted that we now have such a fitting tribute to our wonderful daughter and her schoolmates have a tangible reminder of their friend and the part they played in making the memorial a reality.”

Jane Doyle, operations manager at Hilbre High School, added: “It will be a lovely reminder to all the pupils and staff that knew her, it will allow her spirit and memory to continue to exist in school every day.”

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