Bereavement can take many forms when a loved one passes away and one of the ways St Elizabeth Hospice helps people through this difficult time is with their Material Memories service.

During the last three years many Suffolk families have made a poignant tribute to a loved one through St Elizabeth Hospice’s Material Memories.

Created by Sue Marshall, of Made With Love, Material Memories are handcrafted keepsake bears made from the clothes of loved ones. All the bears are fully lined and hand-stitched and can be made from almost any material, with Sue using her sewing talent to create a unique bear that is personal and serves as special reminder of loved ones no longer with us. 

This summer has seen the milestone 250th Material Memory Bear being created by Sue for Abigail and Avril Read in memory of their aunt and sister, Sonia Mortimer.

“Having our memory bears is so special to us, as it means we can keep Sonia’s memory alive,” explained Abigail.

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

Abigail and Avril decided to have three bears made in memory of Sonia, with one sitting in Abigail’s bedroom and the other in Avril’s, while the third bear has made the long trip to be with Sonia’s sister in California.

Avril added: “We have sent one of the bears to live with Sonia’s sister, Judy. It’s 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.”

While being a unique way to remember Sonia, their Material Memory bears have also them to show their gratitude to the St Elizabeth Hospice staff who cared for Sonia before her death aged 81 at the hospice in July 2020, after being diagnosed with leukaemia, with all funds raised by Material Memories going to the independent Suffolk charity.   

“The hospice is such a warm place, full of love and care and all the staff gave great support to my uncle and Sonia,” said Abigail.

“They gave her care she would never have been able to have otherwise and knowing someone was with her at all times brings comfort to us as a family.”

As well as being the 250th Material Memory bear, Avril and Abigail’s bears are also the first to feature a wedding dress included in the design and materials of the bears.

With all three bears having elements of Abigail’s wedding dress included in them, particularly special to both Abigail and Avril as Sonia attended both their weddings. One of the bears includes material from her wedding dress on the tummy, while the others feature daisies on their paws made from the Avril’s wedding dress, serving as poignant reminders of these special days they shared as a family. 

Both Abigail and Avril’s wedding dresses were also made by Avril’s mum, Muriel Warne, so the memory bears take on an even greater meaning through paying tribute to her memory as well.

All the bears have been made from Sue’s sewing studio at her home. While Sue also runs a number of craft activities for the hospice. 

Reflecting on the 250th Material Memory bear, Sue 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.”

To find out more about St Elizabeth Hospice’s Material Memories visit

St Elizabeth Hospice improves life for people in east Suffolk living with a progressive or life-limiting illness. The hospice’s work is centered on an individual’s needs whenever and wherever it is needed, whether at home, in the community or at the hospice.

To find out more information about St Elizabeth Hospice call 01473 723600 or visit