TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular former Halesowen teacher who lost his fight with coronavirus, aged 66.

Steve Penn, who taught at Earls High from 1984 to 2007, was winning medals in beach life-saving competitions as recently as last summer.

The father-of-two and grandfather-of-three, who lived in Stourbridge, was a keen cricketer and footballer, playing for Oldswinford and Stourbridge Social Cricket Club.

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Steve died on April 16 after a 21-day battle with COVID-19 in intensive care at Russells Hall Hospital.

His funeral was held last Thursday (May 14).

Mourners stood at the roadside to show their respects as the procession made its way to Stourbridge Crematorium - with others watching the service online - as only ten people were allowed to attend due to restrictions.

Steve's widow Jane, aged 66, who has recovered from coronavirus, was at his side when he died.

The couple met when they were pupils at Halesowen Grammar, which is now Earls High.

Jane said Steve, who suffered from asthma, started feeling unwell on Tuesday March 24, with the virus taking its toll so rapidly that by the morning of Friday (March 27) he was in an induced coma in intensive care.

The family said in a tribute: "We have nothing but praise for the amazing doctors and nurses on the COVID ward, who provided outstanding care, not only of Steve but also his family who were limited to phone call updates on his condition.

"Steve worked for many years as a teacher at The Earls High School, leading the IT department, as well as managing the year 7 football team.

"He greatly valued education outside of the classroom and was often involved in organising trips abroad including a yearly trip to Brittany, which many young people of Halesowen benefitted from.

"His patience and gentle demeanour also helped him be a very supportive and caring father to Natasha and Nicholas and grandfather to his three grandchildren Bailey, Harlie and Elliott."

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Steve followed in his father's footsteps to play cricket for Stourbridge Social Cricket Club, and more recently, following a merger, Oldswinford and Stourbridge Social Cricket Club, turning out every week for over 50 years.

This was a matter of great pride for his father, Len Penn, aged 97, who was Stourbridge Social Cricket Club president for a number of years.

Steve was also involved in lifesaving sport with North Worcester Lifeguard Club, competing in national and international competitions, resulting in a silver medal in the beach sprint event at the European Lifesaving Championships held in Germany in 2005 and a couple of British National Records alongside both his son and son-in-law as part of the North Worcestershire Masters Men Line Throw Relay Squad.

His most recent successes came last summer where he achieved medals at both the SLSA Wales Ocean Masters Championships and a silver medal in the Masters Men's aged 65+ Beach Flags event at the SLSGB National Masters Championships.

Steve was a regular at Pump Gyms in Stourbridge where he attended sessions with his son-in-law, Dave Lane.

He played football every week and was nicknamed ‘The Wall' for his formidable defending.

After taking early retirement at 54 Steve retrained as a plumber.

He also worked as an exam invigilator at Summerhill School and The Thorns Collegiate Academy.

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The family said: "Steve was a friendly, caring and active man who could often been seen walking his dogs through Bunker's Wood.

"He was a friend to many, from his time at Gig Mill church to his sporting endeavours."

Jamie Fox, headteacher at Earls High said: "It was with great sadness that we heard the news about Steve.

"Steve worked as an ICT and Maths teacher at The Earls High School for many years and although it has been a number of years since he left the school, many staff and countless students will have known him and remember him with fondness.

"Our thoughts are with his wife Jane and his loved ones at this time."

Donations can be made in Steve's memory to charities he supported by calling funeral director Marcus Adams on 0121 602 0168.

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