How these bears help keep the memories of loved ones alive

The bears made for Avril and Abigail Read and their family

The bears made for Avril and Abigail Read and their family - Credit: St Elizabeth Hospice

An Ipswich woman is keeping the memories of Suffolk's lost loved ones alive through her memory bears.

Sue Marshall, of Made with Love, has teamed up with St Elizabeth Hospice to help create the memory bears, which are made with the clothes of loved ones.

The unique handcrafted keepsakes serve as a poignant tribute to lost family members or friends and are fully lined and hand stitched.

The collaboration, named Material Memories, is now celebrating after creating the 250th bear – made for Abigail and Avril Read in memory of their aunt and sister, Sonia Mortimer.

Sonia, 81, was cared for by the Ipswich-based hospice before her death, after she was diagnosed with leukaemia. 

Three bears were made for the family, with two going to Abigail and Avril for their bedrooms, while a third is now in California with Sonia's sister, Judy.

Lynn Maskell, legacy officer at St Elizabeth Hospice, with Abigail Read

Lynn Maskell, legacy officer at St Elizabeth Hospice, with Abigail Read - Credit: St Elizabeth Hospice

They feature materials from both Abigail and Avril's wedding dresses, which were both made by Avril's mum Muriel Warne.

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Abigail said the bears "mean the world" to the family.

She said: “Having our memory bears is so special to us, as it means we can keep Sonia’s memory alive.

“Sue is so creative and her eye for detail is amazing and she has helped us create a memory which will last a lifetime.

“We have sent one of the bears to live with Sonia’s sister, Judy. It is a complete surprise for her and we have also included a short letter written from the bear asking ‘Will you let me stay with you?’.

“I know this will mean the world to Judy and serve as a special way for her to remember Sonia.”

Abigail added the hospice is a "warm place" which is "full of love" and thanked staff there for the support they gave to both Sonia and her uncle.

Reflecting on making her 250th bear, Sue said she was "really pleased" with the results.

She said: “The 250th bear was really exciting as it was the first time a bear had been made from a wedding dress. I was really pleased with the result and the beautiful lace panel made the bear look so special.

“Making the bears has become a source of enjoyment and the chance to use my creative skills. The best part is when I turn the face out and there he is looking at me.

"The look on the recipients’ faces when the bears are presented to them is amazing. All in all a very pleasurable pastime for me.”

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