My Parents

Updated: 11 December 2002


A celebration of the life of
15th February 1913 - 28th December 1997

Ivy Elizabeth WILLIS, daughter number five of seven children, was born in 1913 to William and Sarah Pike at Kintbury Holt. Her father was a farm labourer and when he died of pleurisy when Ivy was eight, the family were turned out of their farm cottage. They would have ended up in the workhouse if their Uncle Fred had not offered them the attic room of his house.

This meant seven people living in one room - poverty unimaginable to our upbringing. Uncle Fred’s wife did not even like children so they had to keep well out of the way. Their mother worked all hours of the day, scrubbing floors, and taking in washing to keep her family together.

Uncle Fred was a builder and he was having a new house built for himself. He eventually moved out and rented his current house to Ivy’s mother.

As the family reached their teens, life started to get easier. One sister worked with horses on the farm, another was out in service, one was in a laundry, and one was getting married. The fifth sister died aged 11.

Sarah remarried a widower and the family moved to Midgham into another farm cottage, but by now five wages were coming in. Ivy joined her sister at Woodland laundry and quickly became a favourite with the owner as she turned out to be superb at ironing and could be trusted with all the gentry’s finery. She would cycle to Shaw from Midgham with two of her sisters daily in all weathers.

Ivy married Frank Henry Norman Willis on 7 September 1935 in St. Matthew’s church, Midgham. They had 49 happy years of married life, until Frank died of lung cancer in 1984.

Ivy had five miscarriages during the early years of marriage and when Frank went off to war, childless Ivy continued to work during the day in the laundry and undertook fire duties at night. In 1946 when Frank was demobbed, Ivy had saved enough money to put down a deposit on a house and in 1947 son Robert was born, followed by daughter Bettine in 1950.

If you were to ask Ivy about her life, she would tell you she was not really much good at anything, but to Robert and I, she was the most wonderful mother and advisor.

Looking back on her long life she had mastered the art of serving others, devoting her life to her family. She reminded me of the good wife in Proverbs chapter 31, vv 10-31. She was prudent with money, she cooked, cleaned, did the washing, sewing, gardening and decorating.

She nursed us diligently when we were ill; fought the authorities to send Robert to an ordinary school when they tried to put him into a home for disabled children. She spent hours and hours with Robert, practising speech therapy and finger and toe exercises.

She was a great listener, you could broach any subject without fear of it being "taboo". She never panicked and offered practical advice and solutions to the problems we brought to her and she was always available to us. She worked in a variety of cleaning jobs, but ensured these fitted around our school days.

In 1977, she had a stroke and for the first time in our lives, it was her turn to be looked after. She made a remarkable recovery, just slight memory loss, but, ever resourceful, took to writing everything down. During this period, she had the joy of her grandchildren, Rachel and Matthew. Nothing was too much trouble for their comfort as she encouraged them in their growing years.

She had four more strokes over the next twenty years, survived several falls and ulcerated legs. She has lived on her own since 1984, and it was not until her 80th birthday that her body really began to give up on her and she stopped enjoying life.

So many things were taken from her, she could no longer stand to iron, she couldn’t do her gardening, see to sew or read very much. Her memory failed her and she could only go out if we took her. It was our turn to be patient and spend as much time as we possibly could with her.

Throughout her long life, she hardly missed a Sunday visit to church, passing her faith to our dad, Robert and me. Before going to bed at night she always read her Book of Prayers.

God has finally called her to Him. She can now enjoy all the tasks that have been denied her in recent years. She is reunited with dad and all her sisters and brothers, and she will never be lonely again.

Dearest mum, we are so glad you taught us that it is OK to kiss and cuddle, to weep and express our thoughts and feelings. You were a wonderful mother and friend, your wise words and the love that you gave us will stay in our hearts forever. Enjoy yourself now mum, we are sure God has a garden for you to tend in Heaven, or perhaps, you can iron the angels’ robes. One day, we will see for ourselves. Until then our deepest love and thanks for our childhood years.

Bettine J. Hewitt (Bettine is my sister)

Please click here read the Christmas Newsletter that Mother wrote a few weeks before she died.


Father and Mother

Photo Gallery

(Click on Picture to ENLARGE)


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On the occasion of Bettine's 1st marriage


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In the garden of 26 Hawthorn Road (1997)


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