Obituaries (2014-15)

Obituaries or extra information is posted here (click on the name to jump to the one you want to read): Note – some are in the process of editing before being added; other contributions shold be sent to

Elizabeth Stirling RIP

Elizabeth Stirling died in February 2015.

Elizabeth’s interest in the Franciscan life started when she was still at school where Br. Charles of the First Order was a frequent visitor.  However I first met her when she joined our Franciscan group as a novice in 1975, being professed two years later.   She was very soon an established member of our Northampton group and it wasn’t long before she became our Area Guardian. She was also a Novice Guardian and Spiritual Director to many.

From Area Guardian she became Regional Guardian – The West Midlands region covering the area from Malvern in the west, through Birmingham and Coventry to Rutland, Leicester and Northamptonshire in the east.   Then membership of Provincial Chapter and our Deputy Minister. Here she and Richard Hill organized the worship which was the foundation of these meetings.

A major undertaking at this time was being part of the group which revised the Manual and she was also part of the team which organized General Chapter.

And then there were the Families Camps at Hilfield Friary which Elizabeth and Alistair her husband organized for many years.

Elizabeth was always in touch with First Order brothers and sisters, often providing hospitality for them in her home near Stamford.   In 1994 she took Daphne Cook and myself to Hilfield to organize the catering for the General Chapter of the First Order. This was a ‘holiday with a difference’ where Elizabeth tried for the world record in peeling onions!

She was a member of PEG and took part in Missions in towns up and down the country. She was also a staunch supporter of our Second Order.

At the local level there was always a welcome from Elizabeth for small and large meetings and until her illness made life so difficult she was a continual source of support and love for us all.

Elizabeth lived her life as a true Franciscan. For tertiaries holding office means service and Elizabeth was a wonderful example to us all because although she was so busy with much work for the Third Order as a whole she always had time and special care for those of us in the local area, and we will miss her very much.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Margaret Thame RIP

Revd. Margaret Thame died in Gloucester Royal hospital in February, following a stroke suffered some months previously.
Margaret’s life was, from an early age, spent caring. In 1953 she gained her State Registration as a nurse, followed by qualifying as a midwife in 1955. The next five years were in various hospital appointments taking her to diverse locations in the country, till, in 1960 she trained for work in the mission field at Selly Oak College, prior to serving in India, Pakistan and Burma. This entailed the need to learn several of the local languages required for her work of nursing, midwifery and teaching. Her health had never been robust, and she became severely ill, necessitating her retirement from the work she loved, and her return to England in 1967. Again, she worked in the health service as a departmental sister, then on a G.P. maternity unit, till, in 1973 she was appointed matron of the Cheshire Home in Cheltenham, a post she held until 1986, when she became carer to Sue, a young woman, paraplegic after a car accident. It was in 1980 that she met St. Francis and became a novice in the Third Order Of the Society of St. Francis, and in 1982 a professed member. She was with Sue until1989, when she became one of the first women to be accepted at the Gloucester School of Ministry for training to the priesthood. She was ordained Deacon in 1989 and Priest 1994, when her long and fruitful relationship with St. Michaels church in Whaddon, Cheltenham, began and continued until her final illness. While at St. Michaels, the church became one with the local Methodist church, sharing buildings and worship. She was instrumental in building a truly neighbourhood community church, with facilities for all ages and many needs .Her love of cooking was fulfilled in baking countless cakes, creating weekly soups for the”soup lunches” and organizing the smooth running and caring atmosphere of “cornerstone”, the coffee bar and meeting place for the community. In 2011 in Holy Week, she received the Royal Maundy at Gloucester Cathedral, and in 2013 she was admitted to the Company of Saint Kynberga by the Bishop of Gloucester—the Rt. Revd. Michael Perham.
Her service to the Third Order was as devoted as that to her priestly ministry. She became convenor, then Chaplain, an office which changed into Area Minister, and when she had completed her term of office, she ‘retired’. At least, that was what she called it, but she carried on her work of novice guardian to many aspiring Tertiaries, as well as Spritual Direction not only to Tertiaries, but to the wider community as well.
Margaret was a very public spirited, warm person, with a phenomenal capacity for her work but also a very private individual with time for prayer and contemplation. Her family were much loved by her, visited frequently and lovingly supported her in her final illness. She will be missed by them and her many friends.

Honor Hiley RIP

Honor Hiley belonged to a large and happy family who came to Redhill from Manchester. She had inherited a love of family and love of people in general. She was gentle and courteous and always seemed to have time to give to those who needed it. Honor and her young family lived in South Africa for a few years and it was there that she was introduced to the Third Order of St Francis. She had some extremely good friends at that time who supported her and encouraged her in her walk of faith and she never gave up membership even in the latter days when it was proving harder and harder for her to feel that she was making a difference. But even at that stage she was writing the names of those who cared for her in her diary and was praying for them every day and asking them to tell her about themselves and their families – so that the carers became the cared –for and they loved her for it.
Honor was deeply committed to the Third Order of St Francis and to the local church family. She attended several services each week and was keen to tell everyone the basic Christian Message. In simple terms she saw it as this – God began all – sent Jesus when Men went their own way. Jesus died and rose again, then sent his Spirit to be with us always through everything. We are called to follow him and live as citizens of heaven here on earth. She said that we are on a journey through this life and on to the next and we can begin to live a heavenly life here on earth by choosing to follow in God’s way.
Honor often spoke of her garden. In her mind she had a very special garden with the main focus being four trees, these represented her four sons. Each tree bore many fruit which were their families and their good deeds. Also in the garden there were planted shrubs and plants – Love Joy Peace etc. Lately there have been some new plants– forgiveness – acceptance – rest. Some of these have been harder to plant and to nurture. One day she was talking to God in her garden about the problems of getting older. God told her not to worry because the Holy Spirit wears gardening clothes.
There was a wall along the side of the garden with a gate. Now an Angel gate and it has opened and she has gone through. She said “Death is the next big adventure and there are some people there I want a word with.”
Honor died on 24th October 2014 aged 97 – nearly 98, in her room at the Red House nursing home. She was at Peace and surrounded by love and care. She left messages of love and support to her family and friends and these included her funeral service plan for us all to share.
Her last wish was for us to continue caring for one another and to continue in the Faith. We can follow the example of Christian saints down the generations and God will help us.
Jane Hiley (Daughter-in-law).

Martin Hussey RIP

Martin died on 9th October 2014 aged 67.

Professed as a young man in 1977, he had been professed longer than most Tertiaries in our Order. He lived all his life in Walton-on-Thames. He used to work in the BBC’s merchandising department and when that was abolished he worked as a technical assistant in a local school.

He was always very Franciscan in his outlook with a passionate concern for the marginalised and the underdog. This led to him being ordained priest as an NSM in 2000 and for the next 13 years he served in two local parishes where he was much loved. He had an excellent rapport with and understanding of young people and their problems, working much harder than he should as an NSM to the detriment of his health, He was always ready to help anyone in trouble, giving tirelessly of his time.

He is survived by his son Philip and his daughter Eloise and granddaughter Imogen of whom he was immensely proud.

Anthony & Mary Hillard

Steve Jones RIP

Steve was professed in 2006, his novice counsellor, Geoff Davies, who steered him through from postulancy to profession says it was a joy to work with him on his Franciscan journey & that they learnt much from each other & that he had a wonderful sense of spirituality & vocation.
Steve lived a life of prayer. He often stayed at Compton Durville in their Hermitage. Prayer was the driving force & support of all that he did.
Steve founded Interface, a drop in centre with a workshop for the homeless & marginalised in Barnstaple. He had a passionate sense of justice & for some time was the JPIC representative for the Devon area. He had great courage & would fight valiantly against injustice for & on behalf of others. He was a talented innovator, artist & poet.
He gave spiritual counsel to those who came to him, enabling people from all walks of life in their Christian faith & pointing them to Christ. He gave comfort & strength to others & was an inspiration to those who knew him.

Mavis Clayton RIP

I first knew of Mavis at a fund raiser for the play group – she was well known as Auntie Clayton who ran the play group in Mortehoe and was a great support to Mothers as well as the children. She was devastated when through ill health she had to give it up.
Amongst my early memories was Mavis and her Morris Minor 1000 – how she loved that car – she would be driving so intently she would drive past and not see you!

Our shared journeys as Franciscans:
Trelowarren – our rooms up in the attics feeling we were in the right place for humility – like Downton, the staff in the attic. We wanted to put on a good show so we would be accepted but there was a loose creaking floor board and as any one walked on it, it moved my bed and Mave and I had to stifle our giggles. Our way around a silent retreat was to write each other notes.
When we drove to places Mavis was my own board computer only she didn’t correct my driving – she told the drivers around us off!! I jumped the first time she did it – this couldn’t be Mavis!?
We had so many laughs together – the day we were on the wrong platform waiting for our train home, the race down one platform across the lines and up the other one with the guard standing holding a door for us – with a wry smile saying – ‘on the wrong platform then’ !
We thought we would never be accepted as Franciscans – we weren’t serious enough. But we were, we discovered they could be as light hearted as we were.
I remember walking in the woods at Trelowarren, they were carpets of bluebells and wild garlic, Mavis loved that.
How we covered nearly every inch exploring Holy Island and its beauty and peace, talking to a young French student who worked in a café there, he was very handsome – was this why we went in every day? We discovered he would be a soldier at the end of the summer.
Staying at the friary in Alnmouth the fabulous views.

Mavis was a wonderful artist and poet – somewhere in all her papers you should find some of her poetry including one called sisters, that was moving and beautiful but she didn’t want her beloved sisters to read it while she was still alive. I hope you can find this and her other poems when things are sorted out.
I’m sure many would remember the annual carols at Mave’s, how she loved those times.
I remember a fund raising ‘garage sale’ she organized to be held in Cowlers garage, I wondered how she would fill the stalls but she was so loved she was supported by many people and needed a garage to put the stuff in.
I remember standing with her on Exeter Central station watching the young women shouting up to their men at the prison windows across the road. It was Romeo and Juliet in reverse. We listened and then on the train heard their plans for Saturday nights – !
Mavis loved all people especially children, she was heartbroken when she had to give up the play group, she loved the children and the mothers’ she then went up the school to read the smaller children stories and they loved her – she worked at White Rose as activities organiser and she loved them just as much and then she became a nanny and it rounded off her working days wonderfully. How she loved that family and watching all the youngsters grow into such wonderful adults. Who wouldn’t want Mavis as a Nanny?
She was very much involved in her church, gave us such a shock one week telling us all off from the front of the church for not giving enough commitment to a church we were linked with!
I remember how she had us all laughing at a character she played in a show in church – a (failed) keep fit fanatic with and amazing accent! She amazed us and she calmed us with such wonderful prayers, very short and simple and ones that touched our hearts.
She cared for so many and in these later years others cared for her.
She amazed me in her selflessness, one day saying she thought that her sons visited her too much, Sundays should be family days, and they ought to cut back on evenings, after a long hard day at work they needed some rest. BUT you couldn’t keep them away. That is real love for them.
If you wanted a wonderful mother, a great friend, Mavis was the gift you got, how blessed we all were.
At Christmas this year she felt she shouldn’t go to her family as those in the Home who couldn’t go out might feel lonely.
She was a wonderful friend to visit – I always felt so much better after a chat with Mavis – it isn’t meant to be that way but it was – and it was great.
Mavis was our angel on this earth, she glowed with love and caring for so many, she never asked for anything off us, she just quietly loved and gave.
My friends in America prayed for Mavis and I got a message from one that said I wasn’t to feel too sad, when Mavis died she had felt an angel passing by her on her way to heaven. I think Mavis would want us all to feel like that.
It was good to see that Mavis was so settled in at Park View, so at peace and she was so loved there so well taken care of. She had some good friends there in no time.
I will remember our sitting out in the shade on a beautiful sunny day, or on cooler days sitting in the conservatory chatting together with a resident she had already taken under her wing.
Mavis had tough times and this past year wasn’t easy but she got through it seeing good in so much. How I’d love to be more like her.
You lovely boys perhaps haven’t seen your Mum as we were blessed to, but angels are like this – I know she will be with you in the warmth of your hearts helping you through this sad time. We haven’t lost her – God gave her to us and now she has gone home to be with Him and with her beloved Reg, and Joyce and many others who she loved.

Over these last days we were reading Bob the street cat and she loved it, we’d read the first few chapters – I hope she can finish it off up there in heaven but please if you are reading it for her, read it slowly, she loves to comment on it not just listen and it makes it special.

I hope this doesn’t seem too flat, it’s near impossible to get the spirit in them or the feeling of love.
Her last week was a real and wonderful gift. Two of her granddaughters were with her for Communion and shared it with her, that meant so much and it seemed that she had visits from so many people, a continued stream on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day of people who loved her. How special that was to her.
We will miss her so much.

A tribute from Sheila Moston TSSF

Kate Purches RIP

Kate Purches (nee Osborn) was born on 3 June 1912 and died on 22 August 2014 in Hexham, Northumberland. She was married to Leslie (the Rev. Leslie Samuel Purches) and had two sons who survive her, a daughter who predeceased her, and six surviving grandchildren.
Tertiaries Alder and Gwenda Gofton visited her in hospital shortly before her death and said that she was, amazingly, as loquacious as ever and delighted to see them. She really was a wonderful lady.
Gwenda also said that Kate was a most independent lady who looked after herself and read highly intellectual books. She has a special showcase in the Metropolitan Museum in N.Y. with a piece of papyrus in, now known as the Papyrus Purches, which she gave the Museum as a permanent loan. At the age of 89 or 90, she was flown over to attend the Inaugural Lecture about it and became a personal friend of the lecturer.  Kate’s find was the missing link to various others!

Kate’s son Michael said that her gardening was a great passion, as was being a wonderful mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. He also said that she was a total devotee of all that relates to the life, thoughts and words of Thomas Merton. She had visited Gethsemani on a visit to the States and right up to her last moments was reading “Becoming who you are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints” (by James Martin SJ) and “A Silent Action: Engagements with Thomas Merton” by Rowan Williams. On one occasion when at Shepherd’s Dene, near Hexham, to listen to a talk, she was invited to speak on Thomas Merton which she did without any hesitation and was so well received even being then in her nineties.