Family to take on charity challenge in memory of beloved grandmother

Born in 1915, Mary Taylor lived through two world wars, a global flu pandemic, The Great Depression and countless other world-shaking events. But it is her volunteering, campaigning, fundraising and dedication to local charities that she will be best remembered for.

One of seven children, Mary was the last remaining daughter of William and Sarah Gough of the well-known William Gough and Sons Limited construction specialists in Wolverhampton.

Mary grew up in the Horseley Fields area and took up various clerical posts with local companies, including Manders and Ductile Steel before marrying husband John in 1939. With the outbreak of the Second World War, John was enlisted in the army and Mary went to work at Banks’s Brewery in the payroll and accounts department. She also managed nightshifts at New Cross Hospital as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment tending to injured soldiers from Poland and Holland.

At the end of the war, John returned home, and the couple went on to have a daughter named Elizabeth in 1950. But tragedy struck the family eight years later when Mary’s brother William sadly died from cancer. Following his death, Mary set up the Wolverhampton branch of the Cancer Research campaign and dedicated her life to raising awareness and fundraising. During her lifetime Mary raised more than £1 million pounds for the branch.

By the mid-60s, Mary was working as a school secretary at Municipal Grammar School alongside her work with the branch, later also taking on duties as a PA to the school’s head in the 70s.

In 1980 Mary was volunteering at The West Park Hospital when she decided to retire from work and step down from the Branch. But a new challenge was just around the corner as two years later, Compton Care, then Compton Hospice, opened its doors for patients living with complex and incurable illnesses. Mary was one of the first batch of volunteers to offer her support.

Over the course of 25 years Mary volunteered at the Wolverhampton-based charity on its Inpatient Unit, as well as promoting its work and fundraising at events as a stallholder. In the early 90s, following the death of her husband, Mary even opened up her home to one of Compton’s doctors, Dr Ben Ritzenthaler when he first started working there, offering home cooked meals and a wake-up call in the morning and over the years the two became good friends.

Sadly, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Mary became unwell and was transferred to Compton Care where she died on March 30, just three months before her 105th birthday. Now her granddaughter, Jenni Smith is taking on a mammoth challenge in her memory alongside husband Will and best friend Leanne to raise funds for Compton.

She said: “My Nan has always been so incredibly strong, and we have always been extremely close. She had the most caring nature and beautiful spirit and always left a huge impression wherever she went and would put the welfare of others before herself. She was so loved by us all and her joy for life was infectious.

“When she was transferred to Compton, I doubted whether there would be anyone still working there when she was a volunteer, so I was astonished when a nurse, Adrian, entered the room and informed me that they had worked together before and had had so much fun together during their shifts. Over the next few days more and more staff came in saying they knew Mary or had heard of her. It was so emotional for me to hear that and to be amongst people who knew and loved her. It made me incredibly proud of her as I always have been.

“We remained at Compton for four days, Nan died in Monday 30th March at 8:10pm. The staff cared for me as much as they cared for Nan. I didn’t leave her side from the moment she arrived, and I was given meals and drinks and quite often a face would pop in the door just to ask how I was.

“The Covid restrictions meant that it was not possible for Nan to have other family members come visit, so as a result I was on my own. I gained strength from the visits from Compton’s Rev. Elaine who was wonderful. I find words inadequate to express the depth of gratitude I feel towards all the staff at Compton, not just for me and my wonderful Nan but for everyone who receives their care and support at what, for many, is at the most difficult time.

“With everything going on at that time, the fact Mary came back to Compton and that I was able to spend every second with her in her last few days was more than just good fortune, I believe the Lord led a path for us and ensured that the end of her long, full and extraordinary life would come to its final close in a way that was fitting to the life she had led.

“This has driven us to want to fundraise, in the spirit of Mary, and to be able to just give back as a way of saying thank you for all that Compton did for us. My nan would have been 105-years- old on June 28, so my best friend Leanne and my husband Will and I have decided to honour those years in miles. Leanne and I will be running 105 miles to honour her 105 years and Will, a keen cyclist, will be cycling 1050 miles throughout the month of June.”

Both Leanne and Jenni have been friends for 15 years, with Mary often referring to Leanne as her adopted granddaughter. The two are both keen runners having ran the Virgin London Marathon together in 2017. However, with Leanne living in Yorkshire and Jenni in Wolverhampton, they will be tracking their miles through the Strava app and will try to run some distances together despite being in different counties.

Meanwhile, Will has taken part in various cycling events, including the iconic European Sportive, La Marmotte Granfondo in the French Alps in 2016. Upon finishing the race, he called Jenni at the top of the Alpe d’Huez to propose to her. They married the following year with Mary as their guest of honour.

The group’s fundraising target is to raise £1,050 for Compton Care.

Jenni added: “I am sure my nan would have been very proud as we move forward to raise money to support this fantastic cause that was so dear to her heart. We felt it very fitting to use her 105 fabulous years to set our milestones, both physically and financially.

We are very excited to take part in ‘Mary’s 105 Compton Challenge’ and with each pedal turn and trainer clad step, we will remember her and pay tribute to her extraordinary life.

To keep up to date with Jenni’s progress and to donate to her fundraiser visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jennifer-smith98

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