Marjorie Olive Morris 3.11.1910-31.5.2010


There have been two Marjories in my life. My Aunt Marjorie, when I was a child in the 1950s and 60s. And the Marjorie I came to know as an adult.
Aunt Marjorie was a person of high standards and strong will. Someone for whom I had to “speak up” and be on my best behaviour. Aunt Marjorie belonged to a different world from mine, a business world of big Ford cars, cocktail parties and foreign travel. Aunt Marjorie brought me salt and pepper packages from BOAC flights, souvenirs from Africa and America and Finland. Aunt Marjorie had a small poodle called Suzette which I could take for walks. She often called me Suzette by mistake. Aunt Marjorie took me as a child to my first grown-up Soroptimist dinner at the Leofric Hotel in Coventry, introducing me to the delights of salmon mousse, and a considerable number of after dinner speakers. Aunt Marjorie took me to her office and gave me filing to do to make me feel useful, or possibly just to keep me occupied. I listened to the thud of the hammers in T Williams’ workshop below the office and saw how my Aunt Marjorie was an important person. Aunt Marjorie sent me to her former teacher, Molly Topliss in Harbourne to learn to speak clearly and to project, reasoning that a shy child who couldn’t make herself heard in company would never get on in the world. Aunt Marjorie loved me as her god-daughter and niece in a way I didn’t understand then, my childish love for my aunt was generously mixed with duty.
As soon as I left school, I received the instruction that I was no longer to call her “aunt”. And from then on, I began a lifetime of learning about – and growing close to – this grand and special lady. I learned that she had had to work very hard to fit into the business world in which she moved. That she had overcome illnesses, gone to elocution classes, dealt with sadnesses in her life and become more and more determined to pursue her career to high professional standards. Most of all I learned about Soroptimism. Soroptimists are driven by a spirit of service to others, in their local communities, and in the wider world. They are strong women demonstrating leadership – we have many here today –and although I initially became a Soroptimist to please my aunt, I continued to grow as a Soroptimist, as I understood what this great women’s organisation had done for Marjorie. As a committed member of Soroptimist International of Central Birmingham from 1955 onwards, having been both Club and Midland Divisional Union President, Marjorie developed and maintained friendships which lasted decades. Too many friends to name individually, though some who are here, and some who are no longer with us, like Lilian Baynes and Nen Renison for example, were an important mainstay in Marjorie’s life. There were friends she helped on many occasions both professionally and personally, and friends who in their turn have faithfully supported, laughed with, worked with and visited Marjorie throughout her long life.
Marjorie was a successful career woman, and she had a gift for making relationships, for talking to people and showing keen interest in them, she took immediately to my husband Tony and ever after besieged him with questions about the business world. Her long lasting friendships with Dithie and David and Allan were a big part of her life, along with her faithful work team from T Williams, and the many friends she made through fund-raising, through community work in Ladywood, through playing bridge and through helping in Birmingham Cathedral.
Most of all Marjorie taught me by example to value people as individuals, to value hard work and to be determined. Her love for me, as a child she never had, stayed strong and became something she shared with my family – with Tony and with Clare. It was Marjorie who most valued my achievements at university, at work, in business, with our sheep and in Soroptimism. Marjorie was my role model from childhood of a strong and professional woman with a busy and generous life, full of people – I give thanks to God for my wonderful aunt.

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