We held Mum’s funeral this afternoon, and I was asked to do the tribute. My reason for publishing this is for no other reason to allow those who couldn’t attend to read what I said and remember her from afar.
For those of who were able to attend, we her family send our heartfelt thanks, it meant the world to us.
“It’s strange standing here today, if fact I think the last time I was here, I was stood on a box and was in Scout uniform!
Let’s start with a brief history of Gillian and her family. Laurence and Jessie were married at St Aloyious church in 1936, Gill was born in 1938, Celia in 1940 and Tim in 1949. Laurie had a house built in Barton Lane, and the family attended mass here, until they moved to Staverton Road in 1953. So when after Mum married Dad and moved back to Headington in 1964 she returned to worship here, and continued to do so until her last few weeks with us.
Gill started school at Miss Welch’s preparatory school in Beech Road, and finished her schooling at Notre Dame High School, also here in Oxford. It was at Miss Welch’s that Mum met Deirdre, and that friendship lasted for the rest of her life. I cannot imagine Mum without including trips to see Deirdre, Ray and son James.
It’s comforting to see you all today. Its proof, if such a thing were needed, that the best things do come in small packages. In the few days since Mum died I’ve been struck by how much Gillian Mary Reade meant to so many people.
Of course first on that list is Dad. Married for 48 years, together for over 50, it shows what love, faith, and loyalty can achieve. A successful marriage and family were the lynchpin in everything she was.
That of course and her unshaking faith. Her Christian beliefs shaped who she was, but it was the quiet, influential type, few words, but many deeds.
But for me the Gill I’ll remember is the quirky smiling little thing you couldn’t help but warm to. I remember attending a garden party at Wolfson College for the retirement of Sir Raymond Hoffenberg the college President. Mum spotted him looking rather wistfully at the bouncy castle, so walked up to him and said “If I go on will you?” Two minutes later the throng were treated to the president of the Royal College of Physicians, and the college coffee lady jumping, laughing on the children’s bouncy castle! Dad and I turned to each other and smiled as we said, “Only Mum!”
That talent for organisation leant itself to many projects. There were stints as a school governor for both Headington Nursery School, and Quarry School. There was the Headington Wives Group, the WI and Religious discussion groups. This 5 foot nothing dynamo had the energy to organise absolutely anything! I remember the self service restaurant at Gatwick airport getting re-organised, because you SHOULD have the milk next door to the tea machine, and a hotel was gently let know that in a buffet restaurant it’s entirely sensible to have the desserts in one area, the last. Mum couldn’t understand why it would be any other way!
For many of you your memories of Mum will be the push-bike whizzing round Headington, with the little lady with the big smile, who didn’t fuss. You may be interested in the photo on the front of the order of service. Many years ago I was sat opposite Mum on a little Ferris wheel in Cape Town. I told one of my silly jokes and she laughed. At that moment I picked up my camera, and well, you can see the result! Mum liked the result and she made sure the picture was framed and it still sits on the mantelpiece. Ah…. those memories…..
That’s why we’ve asked for donations to the Alzheimer’s Society instead of flowers. That terrible disease robbed Mum not just of her retirement, but also her memories and eventually the essence of who she was. That said, she bore the burden of her ill-health with typical humour and stoicism and even just a few weeks ago we still got a hint of her former self, when in Wallingford hospital a nurse suggested that Mum might enjoy walking. She smiled, and gave that shake of the head, that only ever was used when sport or exercise was mentioned. Exercise and Mum just didn’t mix; she even jumped over the hockey ball during games lessons at school!
We’re missing her horribly. It feels like the family is missing a limb, even though she wasn’t able to live at home from the end of February, the house feels empty.
We, her family would like close by passing on our heartfelt thanks to those who cared for Mum in her final few weeks. To Christine, Kate, Daisy-May and the nursing staff at St Leonard’s ward at Wallingford Community Hospital, and to Debbie, Vanessa, Vicky, Marie, and the all the staff of St Andrews Care Home, in Headington, your care and compassion was an example to us all.
We’d like to thank Fr John Baggley for coming to see Mum at St Andrews as often as he did. We know it meant the world to Mum, as did the visits from her family and friends. The support from our friends and neighbours, particularly Betty Matthews during this difficult time has been of great comfort to us too. Finally we like to thank you all for coming today, and would like to invite you, after the committal, to the Masons Arms for some light refreshments and to remember Gillian Reade, governor, chairman, and organizer, but above all else, a friend, wife and mother.”