Allyson’s daughter’s Beth and Sam paid this moving tribute to their mum at her funeral service on Monday 3rd August 2020. Gareth Phillips (our president) was honoured to be invited to represent the Norwich Welsh Society.
It is often true that you learn more about an acquaintance at their funeral, and Gareth certainly learned a lot more of Allyson on this day. May our friend and fellow society member rest in peace after much suffering.
A tribute to Allyson Hewitt by her daughters, Beth and Sam:
We would like to begin by saying that this is hard. Hard for so many reasons but fundamentally because it is impossible to try and find the words to truly do justice to what an incredible woman mum was and to just how much we love her.
She was intelligent, independent and principled. Her strength of character and fortitude made her truly formidable but she was also so kind and unfailingly generous. In the final months of her life she found the time to give her local surgery a donation ‘so they could buy PPE and keep helping those who need it’.
Whilst she was always thinking of others, she was not herself always an easy person to help! A good job done was a job she had done herself! For the jobs that she couldn’t do she relied on a selection of trusted handymen who were ‘supervised’ with lashings of tea, cake and whiskey!
Her home and particularly her garden were her sanctuary. There have been many versions of these over the years each one a product of her unique brand of meticulously planned craziness with beautiful colours and full of life. On the paving stones she had two arrows made of green glass. One points to Wales and one to Malta. It was one of mum’s biggest achievements to go on holiday to Malta on her own. It scared her but her courage was rewarded by having a wonderful time and for many years she used to stand in the garden and wave to the Malta plane as it went overhead.
Most of all though, she was a self-confessed ‘home bird’. It gave her so much pleasure to potter about, paint her wheelbarrow, chairs and pots and sit next to the fountain with a glass of wine and a puzzle. For many years she shared her garden with our beloved cat Thelma who lived to the grand old age of 22 on a diet of mince and cream from Waitrose. Thelma was mum’s constant and cherished companion and we’d like to scatter her ashes on the mound in the garden next to Thelma.
I think it’s fair to say there is so much about mum that could be considered ‘eccentric’. Sam remembers returning from university and attempting to make a cup of tea only to find nothing in the fridge but a bottle of bubbly, a chocolate cake and a box of red lipsticks, which left us wondering what kind of life mum was leading now we had both left home! I have to say that Sam’s recollection of bizarre things in the family fridge is more savoury than mine. I had the pleasure of accidently drinking one of mum’s science experiments – a two month old carton of orange juice, and also on another occasion finding some cows eyeballs in the salad drawer ready for dissection at the evening class she was teaching.
But we were well used to her house being a mixture of the weird and wonderful. ‘Colour and light girls’ she used to say with a gleam in her eye. For years there was a palette of colour swatches plastered over the walls but eventually she redecorated every room with her unique style and an incredible number of lamps and mirrors (colour and light). You could also expect to find some oddities such as the cheese grater in the airing cupboard and saucepans on the radiators.
Her flair for the dramatic extended beyond her decorating and in another lifetime mum would have made an excellent thespian. On one occasion Sam and I remember mum reading at the local church (possibly a harvest festival) with her usual gusto and confidence. I think it’s fair to say that the people of Hethersett were not ready for mum that evening. From our vantage point at the back we could see the slightly baffled look of the congregation as mum went full throttle into her reading. As ever when we were kids this vivacity was very embarrassing now as adults it’s a great source of pride and is a source of many memories of her. We can’t forget driving along with her listening to Elton John, Fleetwood Mac or ‘Let the river run’-strictly the Working Girl version. She would ride Boudicca-like in her chariot, which in her case was a Renault Clio called Doris, and wind down the windows, turn the volume to an ear-splitting volume and drive triumphantly to Waitrose to buy something delicious and undoubtably something cold and fizzy. One of her favourite phrases was ‘Wonderful darlings’ with a beaming smile and a hearty shake of the fists, ‘more prosecco is needed!
Her cancer diagnosis was such a shock for mum. She never really understood why this had happened and we used to tell her that for some things there is just no reason. Having nursed her own mum through terminal cancer she knew the challenge that lay ahead and she faced her own cancer battle with the same courage and dignity that she had throughout her life. Her mantra of ‘just keep going’ is testament to the woman she was. We know she sought to protect us and even in her own battles she’d put us first. We’ll never forget that no mum could have loved or supported her daughters more.
One of her favourite toasts was to “Strong Women”. She’d say it often. If she didn’t have a glass in her hand she would be undeterred. She’d raise an imaginary glass but would always say it with the same conviction. It was a mantra that she lived by and she really was the strongest of women and we loved her and respected her for it.
Mum we will remember you as a kind, intelligent, hard-working, dedicated, stylish and vibrant lady who exuded class, elegance and dignity, with plenty of red lipstick.
She used to say ‘Don’t just do it, do it with grace’ and I think this sums up mum’s life perfectly. So here’s to you mum. Thank you for being our mum. Strong women”.
A friend and close neighbour said this of Allyson at her funeral service:
My friend, Allyson was a unique and wonderful human being who lived at 11 St Davids Road in Hethersett for many years. To those of us who knew her well, she would present a range of faces, sometimes affected by difficult experiences that impacted on her well-being and that she felt very deeply. But there were consistencies at the heart of Allyson that were completely constant – among these her love of cashmere and Chanel. She was one of the kindest most generous people you could meet, with her time and attention, but also in many practical ways. When a young person needed a home for a while, Allyson opened her house to them. When my beloved cat was killed in a road accident, Allyson took control and didn’t hesitate to lift him and drive us to the vet.
She would frequently surprise me with a carefully chosen gift, and she was a wonderful hostess, preparing fabulous meals presented on an exquisitely set table. Allyson took great pride in her Welsh roots, and retained the lilt in her voice as well as a majestic command of vocabulary and expression. A few years ago she joined the Welsh Society and found new friends and a new interest and activities.
Going further back in time, while training to be a teacher at the local college, Keswick Hall, Allyson enjoyed amateur dramatics, and much later, I saw her deliver a masterful, and very entertaining, presentation to her group while studying for an advanced qualification for work with children with Special Educational Needs. Allyson had begun her career as a science teacher but was drawn to pupils for whom she felt she could make a real difference – those who needed more patience and understanding, and imaginatively creative ways of teaching. Her excellence in this field was a source of great pride to her.
She had a way of connecting with people, and it was disappointing that the links she made through her ventures into box number dating didn’t yield more fruit. Allyson would text me when she was out…. one beau was on medication, the next date’s text read “Russell isn’t on medication, but he should be”. With none of these fellows shaping up, Allyson and I, with shared interests, enjoyed many outings together over the years…theatre, cinema, picnic concerts at Hethersett Old Hall, a memorable trip to Amsterdam, snowdrop walks, eating out – or just meeting for coffee in Waitrose, or a cuppa (or frequently a glass of wine) at No. 11 or mine.
Allyson loved 11 St David’s as she affectionately called her home, lavishing attention on the house and garden, making great strides in refurbishment indoors and completely redesigning her garden. With her customary attention to detail, Allyson pored over magazines and brochures until she found exactly the right pattern of wallpaper or design of kitchen cabinet. She hated all things beige, and her vibrant colour scheme was a reflection of her personality.
The garden was a source of real interest and working in it brought her great joy. Allyson lovingly redesigned it, creating detailed planting plans and relishing the delights each season brought, knowing all the names of all her plants. The piece de resistance is Olive, her magnificent olive tree, carefully wrapped to see her through each winter. She also very much enjoyed lavishing tea (or something stronger), cake, bacon and eggs on the guys who brought her home and garden ideas to life. Above everything, the joy of Allyson’s life and one of her greatest ‘jobs well done’ is her daughters Sam and Beth. She felt – and expressed - the greatest sense of pride in their achievements, and in them as wonderful young women. Add to this her happiness that they now have families of their own with Moira and Matt – I shall always remember her truly serene expression as she looked at baby Theo.
Was Allyson all sweetness and light? No she was not – she was NOT beige. She was a fiercely independent, determined, spirited human being who retained the essence of her personality until her body finally overcame her. St David’s Road and I are the poorer without her.