A woman who came to England as a refugee during World War Two and later helped set up a Shakespeare theatre company in the Chilterns has died.

Sue Thorndike was a founder member of Chiltern Shakespeare Company (CSC) in 1986 and directed its first production, As You Like It, at Oakdene School, in Beaconsfield.

She was born Sue Lederer near Vienna, Austria, on April 17, 1925 and came to England as a refugee with her mother, stepfather and sister Lisi in 1939.

Her stepfather was initially screened as a potential spy, while the two girls and their mother were taken in by a convent in Taunton.

After the war, the family moved to Market Harborough, Leicestershire, where she resumed her love of the theatre with a local group.

She met her husband Dickon Thorndike when he came to review Private Lives, which featured Sue in a leading role, as a young reporter.

They married in 1951 and their only daughter, Mandy, was born in 1953. She sadly died in 2009, before her parents.

The family moved to Farnham Royal in the late 1950s and joined Beaconsfield Theatre Group. They were active members for many years.

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Close family friend Felicity Norrie said Sue’s professional tailoring skills “made her an outstanding wardrobe mistress”, but that she was also an “accomplished and creative director and actress”.

Bucks Free Press: PICTURED: Sue at her 80th birthday party with Jenefer Farncombe and Avril BatesPICTURED: Sue at her 80th birthday party with Jenefer Farncombe and Avril Bates

A longstanding friendship with fellow members Aviva and Michael Wiseman, and a mutual love of the Bard’s work, led to Sue helping to set up CSC in the 1980s.

As well as As You Like It, Sue also directed several more productions in the grounds of Hall Barn, Beaconsfield, the group’s home since 1989.

She sadly died over Easter aged in her 90s.

Felicity described Sue as a “very special friend”, adding: “She was known for her light touch in direction, her ability to help her cast communicate the emotion of a scene, and the addition of delightful, creative visual touches.

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“Beyond her theatre skills – and her amazing talent for baking which was so appreciated by every cast member – she was loved by all as a warm but self-effacing person, always more concerned about others than herself.”

In a tribute to Sue, CSC said that “theatre was her lifeblood”, adding: “We mourn her passing.”

And Jenefer Farncombe, owner of Hall Barn, said: “What a great sadness for everyone associated with CSC and beyond. Sue was an inspirational person, with enormous personal warmth, charm and generosity of spirit.

“We are the poorer for her passing. I shall remember her with great affection.”