Life story

Amazing life story of Rochester model Cassandra Nye who knew John Cleese, Norman Wisdom and Joanna Lumley

A former model, journalist, astrologer, dying aunt and DJ born into a poor family, has died aged 78.

Cassandra Nye’s turbulent life has seen her mingling with a string of famous names, such as Charlton Heston, Joanna Lumley, David Hamilton, John Cleese, and Norman Wisdom.

John Cleese chats with bikini model Valerie

At the peak of her catwalk career, she was photographed by famed snapper David Bailey and made an appearance on the Benny Hill Show as one of his “dolly bird” extras. But her life didn’t start out so glamorous.

Her Rochester-based parents Winifred and Harry, who were in shock during their service in World War I, struggled to cope financially and their daughter, born Valerie Alison Sharp, was briefly sent to an orphanage.

But when she left school at the age of 14, she was determined to broaden her horizons.

She married local jazz musician Brian Nye when she was 16 and started modeling for a London agency, working with brands like L’Oréal.

Boasting good looks, she joked as she got all the jobs model Jean Shrimpton turned down.

Schoolgirl Valerie Sharp wanted to broaden her horizons
Schoolgirl Valerie Sharp wanted to broaden her horizons
Theobald's Square, now La Providence, Rochester, where she was born
Theobald’s Square, now La Providence, Rochester, where she was born

She has appeared in television commercials for a deodorant and accepted an advertisement for a brand of cigarettes, although she does not smoke.

After the marriage broke down, she married another musician, Jim Hall, who worked in session with Paul McCartney, Alison Moyet and Dave Quincy. They had two daughters, Alison and Elizabeth, but separated in 1971.

She gave up her job to raise her young family, then met John Patterson, the founder of Britain’s first dating agency, Dateline.

She worked for him promoting the singles holiday side of the business where she met John Cleese during a celebrity appearance.

Mr Patterson was an avid pilot and the couple both had light aircraft licenses – flying all over Europe and Morocco.

When she was a model
When she was a model
Strike a pose
Strike a pose

They also had an upscale wine bar in central London where Monty Python star Cleese was among the customers.

The couple married in 1974 had a son Jonathan, who divorced in the 1980s but remained friends until his death in 1997.

In the 1980s, she took a journalism course at the London College of Printing and wrote short stories, agony aunts and horoscopes for magazines and newspapers.

Using the names, Cassandra or Sandy, she was able to interview famous names, such as Norman Wisdom.

She then trained in broadcasting, cutting her teeth in hospital radio before moving to BBC Radio Kent and BBC Radio Norfolk.

The couple were avid pilots
The couple were avid pilots
Cassandra with her third husband John Patterson
Cassandra with her third husband John Patterson

Three times married, she moved a lot between London and East Anglia, where she renovated an old house, and enjoyed traveling abroad.

But time and time again she returned to her beloved Rochester where, in her later years, she moved in with her sister Vera and became involved in local issues.

Her passion for the city was such that she opposed night permits and buildings that she felt would detract from its charm.

At some point she moved to the sunny Greek island of Corfu where she had a house built and where she had many friends.

But a heart condition forced her to return to the UK for medical treatment.

Cassandra interviews Norman Wisdom
Cassandra interviews Norman Wisdom
Cassandra, 'Sandy' at the time of its broadcast
Cassandra, ‘Sandy’ at the time of its broadcast

And it was here that she spent her last years living a stone’s throw from where she was born in Theobald’s Square, now Providence in the High Street.

It was then that she became involved in the community, opposing planning requests for buildings that might spoil the appearance of the historic town. She has also supported conservation projects at Restoration House and Eastgate House.

Eventually her poor health got the better of her and she passed away earlier this month.

She leaves behind four children, Elizabeth (Wiz), Alison, Jonathan and Amber and six grandchildren.

In the eulogy, her family wrote: “She was a loving mother, a fierce personality who suffered no fools (or men).

Cassandra Nye loved the sunny Greek island of Corfu
Cassandra Nye loved the sunny Greek island of Corfu

“She surrounded herself with people she found inspiring, never stopped learning, never stopped moving forward.

“She was a maverick from a young age, carving out the life she wanted to live and be the person she wanted to be.”

His funeral is today (Thursday) at 10am at Medway Crematorium, Blue Bell Hill.


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