Book of Memories of


Mary Illing

Giver of great hugs

“It’ll never get better if you keep picking at it”
“It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”
“Give that a stir for me – Not like that!”
“Come and keep me company while I do this”
“I can’t sing – except for that one song – You’re going to miss me when I’m gone”
“Ooh I’d love a coffee”
“I’m not as green as I am cabbage-looking”
“Don’t tell your father”
“We will have Sunday Night Soup”
“I’ve been running around like an ooslum bird”
“I do love your dad, he’s a good sort. He brings me a cup of tea every morning”
“I don’t wear green – it makes me look like a farmer’s wife”
“If my mother’d seen that she’d have rapped your knuckles with a wooden spoon, or the back of a knife if you were really unlucky”
“You’ve got to get the piece of paper!”
“Guy, Ruth, Dicky, Peter, oooh, Ethel!”
“Whose turn is it to fill the pepper? Is it Ethel or Mr Nobody?”
“My Dad was the kindest man; he would have loved you so very much”
“I don’t feel fully dressed without my perfume”
“You make a better door than a window!”
“We must mix my mincemeat with a jar of shop-bought for the moisture before we make the mumpy-pumpies this year”
“You’ve just been slugged!”
“Send them my love”

Please share your favourite memories with us.

Book Owner: Ruth Illing Palmer
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Allison Dunsmore

Mary (and Dick) came into our lives when Ruth joined our family as an exchange student. Mary was an unexpected bonus and became an integral part of our family. After sharing Ruth with us for a year, she graciously allowed Ruth to come back for our oldest daughter’s wedding. Once arriving from the airport, Mary immediately helped organize us and get us on track for the nuptials. She introduced us to the concept of a “wafer thin slice of cake”.  It was one of the hottest summers on record in Michigan and we were often caught racing to the freezer to have a “wafer thin slice” of cake to cool down. Over the years, Mary graciously shared her time, talents and home with us and we and our girls looked upon her as “Mum”.  When our oldest had health issues and David went to be Mr. Mom in Michigan for the family, Mary came and helped keep the South Carolina portion of the family in order. Mary was a creative tour de force, from needlework to knitting, to sewing, DIY and gardening she not only could do it but would master it. Many times she would patiently break a …

Michelle Ward

Mary, I don’t believe I ever had the honour of meeting you, but I wanted to thank you for having produced such a wonderful daughter as Ruth. She is such a fantastic mother, Scout leader, businesswoman, motivator, inspirator, comforter, helper … you name it, she’s there for everyone. Put simply, she’s the bestest friend – to me and my family – that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you, Mary! …

Loz GR

Dear Aunty M, I have many fond memories of my childhood with you – learning how to make jewellery threading lots of little glass beads in your crafty corner; marching round the Christmas table in crazy hats at Toll House; racing up and downstairs, playing hide & seek at the house in Hillmorton Road and you making the most wonderful multi-layered celebration cake on Boxing Day to celebrate me finally getting pregnant with Scarlett. It really did bring a tear to my eye and was quite unexpected. What a great baker, maker and mum you were! I’m so glad we got to catch up last October when Jess was over, to hear your news and views and listen to how proud you are of the kids and grandkids and to have a laugh about life. I hope wherever you are, your spirit is shining down from us on high, and smiling at the thought of us all coming together to celebrate a life well lived. You are not forgotten. We carry you in our hearts and memories. Love, Loz, Jim, Scarlett & Ash XXxx …

Wendy Woolaway

 Mary and I became friends as student radiographers in Coventry. She was fun to be with, sunny, warm and generous but also down to earth, non-judgemental and very intelligent.  We could tell each other anything and we would eventually be a bridesmaid for each other at our first weddings. When I think of her now I  have a very clear picture of her driving with the radio turned way up and the two of us bouncing in our seats, singing along as loudly as we could, Mary’s face beaming.  Distance, family responsibilities etc meant we saw little of each other over the years but we kept in touch and I particularly enjoyed one visit to Rugby to meet Mary and Dick’s family when they were quite small. She had always wanted a big family and she seemed incredibly happy.  My daughter and I were so pleased to be be invited to Ruth’s wedding and I rember how much I enjoyed Mary staying for the weekend after a get-together with two friends from our student days, Anne and Pat.   In later life, I thought she was very brave suffering so many serious illnesses but only once, some years ago, did …

Connie Tang

A wonderful lady Mrs I,  thank you for accepted me as extended family. I remember the dish you cook when I first visiting you with Ruth,  and the way of welcoming  instantly made me less homesick.  Thank you for the Christmas Angel cross stitch is means a lot to me. I have fond memories of staying at Rugby and spend time with you.   You will be greatly missed, Mrs I.  Love you. …

Ed Creyton

I have nothing but fond memories of Mrs (I) Mary Illing. I spent a lot of time at the Illings home in my teen years and was always welcomed in as one of the family. I loved how Mary would talk to me and all the other rowdy teens stomping about the house, like an adult and an equal. If she needed something doing and one of her own kids was busy helping with some other thing, she would just say ‘Ed, grab one end of that and put it over there.’ And you would just do it, not out of fear but respect and love. Or send me and guy to the shops for bits and if you didn’t ask you’d get rewarded with cigarettes and a lovely family dinner. Or you could earn cigarettes by doing little jobs or answering some general knowledge questions. So witty as well, hilariously dry! I still tell the story of when she swapped the letters around on Guy’s necklace so it said ‘Santa’. That will never not be funny! I’ll never forget her voice either, commanding and soft. She was such a fair lady, a real rare one, who was obviously …


Mrs I was a wonderful lady, I have fond memories of hanging out in the kitchen, being pointed to certain thigs to mix together ‘Get x from that fridge, and y from that cupboard. Here, use this bowl and there’s an ashtray over there’. I still remember how to make blue cheese dip, although it is easier without a cigarette in your mouth.   I always enjoyed weekends at the I’s, seeing what cross stitch Mrs I was working on, roast dinners for 15, passing the port over your left arm, toasting the queen and all who may sail in her, cigarette breaks between courses, take out the dirty plates on your way.  I went through a stage where I didn’t like roast pork, Mrs I gave me cheese, oh and rice with a roast, I still love rice and gravy!  Mrs I, you will be missed but not forgotten ♡ …

Jessica Peach

My dear Cousin Mary was one of the kindest. Warmest people I know. I always enjoyed spending time with her and sampling her delicious food when I visited the family on my trips home from the States. She would always ask me how many meals will you need when you are here? She knew I loved lamb and would always serve me a lovely roast dinner. I’m so glad I spent some time with her this October when I visited their home for Dick’s birthday! I could tell she was having trouble breathing, but didn’t complain and made the best of it! Although she had her health struggles she was not a complainer, and very English about it! Mary was always interested in the family and what was happening in your life. Mary was very engaging with interesting and amusing conversation.I loved the banter between Mary and Dick as they watched their favorite quiz shows. I will surely miss Mary so much along with her warm heart. May she rest in peace!xx …

Liz Marsden

Cousin Mary, was more like an Aunty to me. She was always incredibly welcoming, whenever we came to visit, whipping up tasty food in her warm, full kitchen. I remember being impressed with a table full of sweet treats, that she and Ruth had made for Christmas and being delighted at being sent home with a box full of them. I also remember being impressed with how she handled a house full of four lively children and guests with great good humour, and managed with ease to feed everyone so well. I remember as a child her encouraging us to hold, it must have been Peter, as a baby, and giving us a go at feeding him. She was a natural mother and a warm friend to all. She will be greatly missed xxx …

Joe King

The great and wonderful Mrs I was like a second mum to me, and I’m sure so many of my friends feel the same way. Always very welcoming, provided you mucked in and helped with whatever was needed, and quick to offer a cigarette so you never had to smoke your own. I remember the mat by the back door that said “back door guests are best”. I think that sums up Mrs I’s attitude and her generosity quite well – if you were afforded the privilege of entering via the back door, you were one of the family. Those Sunday roasts with 10 or more of us seated round the table were the best. I loved that everyone stopped for an inter-course cigarette before pudding was served. You were a very special person to a great many people and you will be remembered with great fondness by all of us. Here’s to you Mrs I.  …