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In Memory of Mary Alice Morris

Mary Alice Morris – 1930 - 2021

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Mary Morris, a dear friend to many in Wickham Market and beyond. She passed away peacefully, at home, after a short battle with lung cancer.

The following was written by Ann Taylor in 2013, nominating Mary for a Lifetime Achievement Award, which she won. Morris Road was named in her honour, but Mary, in typically humble fashion, regarded it as an honour for her whole family. Her father was a founder member of the British Legion branch, and she was particularly proud of his Military Medal for bravery in the first World War.

Since 2013 she continued to serve and support the village and its organisations and was pleased to achieve her 90th birthday on Christmas Eve 2020.

“This nomination is in recognition of a tremendous commitment to the community over many years, which has benefitted the residents of Wickham Market and surrounding area.

Mary Morris was born in Wickham Market and still lives there after 82 years. She has been part of the life of the village, for all of her life. Her stalwart support to people of all ages, throughout her lifetime, is worthy of recognition and thanks.

Mary has been, and continues to be, an active and very committed member of the community. She has willingly given her time to a great number of organisations and groups. It would be difficult to count the number of lives she has touched and changed for the better. Mary can often be found beavering away in a quiet, unassuming way, to achieve positive results, concentrating on aspects small and large, in order that whatever she does is successful.

A quiet person, who prefers working in the background, she has been the lynch pin as well as a leader, and she would be highly embarrassed if she knew about the nomination for this award.

From an early age, Mary was a conscientious member of the Church Choir, retiring from this in the nineteen sixties, but she continued to provide floral decorations in the Church at Easter, Christmas and Harvest for well over sixty years.

During her younger years, from becoming a Girl Guide in Wickham Market she progressed to becoming a Guide Leader and was responsible for giving many girls the joy of camping and holidays abroad. Her weekly commitment to Guides soon saw her begin a successful Brownie Pack and, at the same time, she ran a Ranger Unit for older girls at East Bergholt High School where she was a Teacher. Alongside this, she helped to establish a Ranger Unit in Wickham Market.

Over and above this she provided an extra programme of activities such as badminton on Saturday nights, table tennis on Sunday evenings, cooking and various activities and expeditions with the local Scouts during the school holidays. There will be many people who will tell you how much they learned from Mary in the way of independence, self worth, confidence and respect for each other, as well as the everyday needs of managing life - all vital skills in order to become successful members of society. She helped many girls gain their Queen’s Guide Award and this achievement helped girls in seeking a career.

Mary led a number of girls through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme and on one occasion accompanied them to Buckingham Palace to see the Duke of Edinburgh present them with their awards. Mary, herself, became a Camp Adviser and Trainer for the Guide Association, her high standards, knowledge, skills and understanding of the girls’ needs being recognised and passed on to a great number of adults, not just in Suffolk but also the Anglia Region. Nothing seemed to dispel her enthusiasm or love of sharing her life with others.

Having retired from active guiding with the younger generation, she joined the Trefoil Guild and took on many tasks to support activities for retired Guiders. She was instrumental in setting up a new unit in Kelsale and for some time produced The Grapevine which is the local newsletter for Trefoil Guild members.

Mary had to take early retirement from teaching in order to care for her very ill mother and after her mother passed away, she once again became immersed in serving the community.

She spearheaded the founding of a Photographic Club in Wickham Market and this is now a very successful club. Always interested in photography, Mary has taken a wealth of photographs covering events over a great many years covering every aspect of village life. She has encouraged many people to enjoy and have fun using a camera. She acknowledges that not everyone is an expert and her philosophy is to have a passion for recording your subject rather than being technically correct. There is always a word of praise for those learning the ‘photographic ropes.’ Using her photos, she hand makes hundreds of cards to cover every occasion and these she sells at various events to support the Village Hall and Archive Centre.

Supporting the Village Hall has always been high on Mary’s list of commitments. She has lived through the time of seeing the Village Hall develop from a shed like building to the first class community facility we now have for residents of Wickham Market and District. She was so intent on helping to maintain the building that for several years she was cleaner, treasurer and a member of the Management Committee.

She has supported the Tuesday night bingo sessions by selling her hand made cards to players on the night. She was always available to arrange chairs and tables and put them away afterwards. For several years she ran monthly car boot sales to support the Village Hall finances.

During the nineteen eighties and nineties, Mary was instrumental in setting up and organising the lapsed Wickham Market carnivals. These successfully ran again for many years with Mary at the helm giving people of all ages a great deal of enjoyment and fun. Her father beforehand and Raymond, her brother, were always involved in Wickham Carnivals and Mary followed suit. Every aspect would be overseen by Mary who worked so tremendously hard on these days. Carnival days were busy with people coming into Wickham Market from all the surrounding villages to enjoy all the activities and entertainment of the fancy dress procession, the fair and later, in the evening, the lantern procession, winding its way from the mill to the playing field.

Mary has been associated with the village Flower Show for a great many years. Again, it was another way of financially supporting the Village Hall. As treasurer, she managed the funds and she is still involved in the prize giving, raffle and trophies. She looks after the judges and is always available, over the two days, to inform and advise competitors and visitors. The continued success of our village flower show, now in its 65th Year, has much to do with Mary’s support, never shying away from all the tasks and jobs that others leave!

Wickham Market has a special place in Mary’s life, her love of the village is so evident in the work she does to make Wickham a good place in which to live and be involved. She has guarded the traditions and history of the village. She has methodically and painstakingly collected family histories, records and all aspects of local history. People willingly share or give information to her because they know it will be cherished and respected. She is inspirational in enthusing everyone to look back at their roots and beginnings. Her huge collections of photos, books, artefacts etc., reinforce her love of this interest. It therefore seemed a natural step for her, in 1992, to found the Wickham Market Village Hall Reference Centre – now renamed the Wickham Market Area Archive Centre along with local historian, close friend and colleague, Gwen Dyke. The centre was just ‘off the ground’ when Gwen died quite suddenly, leaving Mary and her team of helpers to ‘go it alone’. The Archive Centre is closely linked to the Village Hall and is housed in two portacabins and a shed adjacent to the Village Hall. Almost without exception, she has opened up the Centre every Thursday for the past 21 years, and now also does so on Tuesdays, and is available to successfully answer visitors’ enquiries about their properties or family histories. Mary has also acted as unpaid caretaker, keeping a watchful eye on the buildings.

Mary organises extremely successful Annual Exhibitions in the Village Hall, to a very high standard, and these have covered a vast range of subjects. Mary has also produced booklets on various aspects of the history of Wickham Market, and the Archive Centre is now a well established, well known and well used resource for Wickham Market and District. It is said to be the second largest archive in Suffolk after the main record office.

In recognition of the part played by Gwen Dyke in developing the Archive Centre, Mary arranges an annual memorial Supper Evening with a relevant speaker. This year, will see this evening celebrate 21 years and it is always fully booked. This evening has become a special village event not to be missed! It would certainly not happen without the hard work of Mary.

As well as being involved in and organising the areas already mentioned, Mary is a loyal member of the Women’s Institute. She belongs to the Village Gardening Club, the Community Club, the Elderberry Club and the Pensioners Club. She supports the work of the Historical Society and gives talks to local clubs and societies. It is a credit to her that she is asked time and time again to return.

Mary’s quiet patience, her methodical, capable, willing approach and the giving of countless hours to Wickham Market is her part in making the community what it is today. Mary positively communicates at all levels but will never seek gratitude for her work. She would be the first to consider it a privilege to be doing her bit for the community. If ever there was a person who kindles the spirit of community in the village it has to be Mary Morris. Her presence is not always evident; but she uses her initiative to see what needs to be done and sees it through. She has achieved and continues to achieve much for the community of Wickham Market and this warrants true recognition.”

Ann Taylor 2013


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