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My Days – Chapter Eight

Of all the events and activities that mum experienced at Stones Place, the highlight came for her 104th birthday. Through MHA’s Seize the Day initiative she was taken back to South Ormsby Hall.

By way of background, Squire Adrian passed away in 2012 and businessman Jon Thornes and his wife Jan became custodians of the Hall in 2016. Mum had kept in touch with Jacqui Rhodes, who’d been Housekeeper at the Hall since Squire Adrian’s time. One day, in the spring of 2017, Jacqui visited mum with the Hall’s Heritage Interpreter, Caron Ementon. Caron was really keen to meet mum, a 101-year old former housemaid from the Hall. From that meeting, a great friendship developed between Caron and Mum, and over the next three years Caron regularly visited and phoned Mum.

Images above:

Left – mum compares notes with Jacqui Rhodes.

Right – mum shares a laugh with Caron Ementon.

 

Mum frequently told Caron she longed to visit the Hall again. Caron approached Jon about this in 2018, and he suggested that mum visit the Hall for her birthday in May 2019. Over several weeks and with precise planning, Caron, Emma and Bev arranged this. The day after her birthday, a taxi took mum, Bev, Pam and me from Stones Place to the Hall. We were met by Caron and Jacqui and taken to the ballroom where mum and dad had enjoyed their wedding reception in 1940. Jacqui had prepared a buffet lunch and baked a birthday cake for mum. That is where mum met Jon, along with other members of his estate team.

Image above:

Mum tells Jon Thornes a tale or two.

 

Mum regaled Jon with her tales of working at the Hall as a housemaid all those years ago. Throughout lunch she held Jon’s hand, and he helped her blow out the candles on her cake. He was wonderful with her, and she clearly made a big impression on him.

After lunch, Bev and Caron took mum around to the front of the Hall and manoeuvred her up the steps. Mum, Bev, Pam I then had a photograph taken on the very spot where mum and dad’s wedding photographs were taken 79 years earlier.

Mum had a fantastic day – a day she had dreamt about for such a long time, and which she thought would never happen again. It was a privilege to share it with her. And it didn’t stop there. A week later, BBC Radio Lincolnshire came to Stones Place to speak to mum about her visit, the interview featuring on their breakfast show the next morning. She quite liked being a celebrity at 104!

 

Image above:

A family photo on the very spot where mum and dad’s wedding photos were taken.

 

End of an Era

Mum passed away peacefully on 24th March 2020 in her own room at Stones Place, just as she would have wanted it. She had not been poorly; she simply got more and more tired and gradually faded away. Pam and I spent much of mum’s final two weeks sitting at her bedside. Pam read extracts of her book to her, especially the parts covering her childhood. I reminisced about my childhood days with her, and the holidays the three of us had enjoyed in Scarborough. Those were a precious two weeks for Pam and I – and, I think, for all three of us.

I must note here too that the staff at Stones Place were wonderful. Throughout mum’s six years with them, their care was marvellous, and they genuinely gave her a new lease of life. In those final few weeks, they could not have been more compassionate and caring towards mum, Pam and me. We all lost someone very special to us that March night.

And how should mum be remembered? I will always remember her as someone who thrived in company, someone who liked to be busy, someone who in later years got very frustrated when her failing body prevented her doing things she wanted to do, someone who was kind and would always put other people first.

Let me finish with some eloquent comments from the sympathy cards we received from some of mum’s family and friends. This is how they remember mum.

 

‘I shall miss not being able to say [while] phoning or visiting when her eyesight deteriorated, “It’s Cecile, Aunty Kath, the littlest bridesmaid”. Her answer was always, “How old are you now?”, and the pair of us would have a good laugh about our advancing years. It was a little ritual and I’m sad it’s gone.’

Cecile, dad’s niece and mum’s youngest bridesmaid, 3-years old in 1940.

 

‘I was very privileged to have known her and learned of her many happy days. I will always cherish her stories of South Ormsby.’

Jacqui Rhodes, Housekeeper at South Ormsby Hall.

 

‘She was a very special lady. I will always be grateful for having been her neighbour and for her friendship, lovely sense of humour and the support she gave.’

Marian, former neighbour from Somersby Close.

 

‘I felt very privileged to have known her – what a great lady.’

Sara Perceval, the late Squire Adrian’s partner.

 

‘I feel so fortunate to have known her. I met her when she was over 100-years old [and] enjoyed her company enormously. Her stories of South Ormsby were fascinating but, I have to confess, it was her sense of humour and her laughter that made being with her a pleasure.’

Caron Ementon, Heritage Interpretation Manager, South Ormsby Hall.

 

 

POST-SCRIPT

In October 2020, 80 years to the day after my parents’ wedding at the Hall, six of us gathered at South Ormsby to scatter mum’s ashes. Pam and I were joined by my cousin Cecile (mum’s 3-year old bridesmaid), Jon Thornes, Caron Ementon and Jacqui Rhodes. Jon had helped us pick a perfect spot for a country girl who so loved her time here. It’s wonderful to think of mum resting under a sapling, on a good piece of Lincolnshire ground not far from her old friend, Squire Adrian, with a fine view of South Ormsby Hall and St Leonard’s Church.

R.I.P., mum.

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