A FRENCH expert, who taught modern languages to hundreds of pupils in Abingdon, has died aged 89.

Sheila Hills was a teacher at John Mason School for several years, also spending time at Fitzharry's School and Abingdon School.

In retirement, she became a bilingual guide at Oxford's famous Ashmolean Museum and the Christ Church Gallery.

Sheila Hills was born on February 20, 1930, in Luton.

Her father, Ron, was a tool maker, while her mother Ivy, made hats. She had one sibling, a younger brother called Don.

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After growing up in Luton, Mrs Hills completed her teaching certificate at Cambridge University's Homerton College.

She then spent a year improving her French at the renowned Sorbonne at Paris University, starting a strong connection with the country that remained throughout her life.

After returning from France, Mrs Hills taught at a secondary school in Luton, during which time she met her husband, Peter, a radiation chemist working for the Atomic Energy Authority.

They married in 1955 and moved to Abingdon, where they remained for the rest of their lives.

At this point, Mrs Hills temporarily left teaching and the couple's sons, Simon and Martin, were born in 1956 and 1959 respectively.

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However, her French remained sharp thanks to a conversation group she set up with some friends.

In 1965, Mrs Hills joined the modern languages department at the recently-opened John Mason School, Abingdon’s first purpose-built grammar school.

Alongside teaching French and a bit of German, she spent time as head of lower school, with responsibility for the youngest pupils.

Mrs Hills's greatest legacy at John Mason was arguably through spearheading the French exchanges with schools in Abingdon's twin town, Argentan.

She made many enduring friendships with teachers from the French town in the process.

The teacher will also be remembered for brief spells at Fitzharry’s and Abingdon School and was a familiar face outside her work.

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Mr and Mrs Hills combined their shared interests in music, singing and entertaining by founding the Corallion Singers - named after a rock found in Oxfordshire - which performed across the south of the county for more than 40 years.

After retiring in 1990, Mrs Hills took a degree in History of Art at Oxford Brookes University.

This helped her continue educating people through a role as a bilingual guide at the Ashmolean, focusing on ancient civilisations, and at the Christ Church Gallery.

One of her proudest moments at the Ashmolean was showing the museum's outreach work to the Queen during a royal visit.

In later life, Mrs Hills was also a governor at Thomas Reade primary school in Abingdon.

She also chaired the Friends of Abingdon Museum during the refurbishment of County Hall and was a church warden at St Helen’s Church, Abingdon, whose choir she sang in for more than 50 years.

Mrs Hills died on April 10 and is survived by her two sons and her brother.

A service to celebrate her life will be held at St Helen’s Church on Friday, June 7 at 3.30pm.