Mary Hillary died on 3rd March 2001 aged 86 and tributes were paid in the local press to the difference she had made to the local theatre. She helped form Keighley Little Theatre in 1947 which later became Keighley Playhouse and acted and was involved in productions for over three decades.
She was a major player in Keighley’s Soroptimist International club and was club president in 1961-2 and 1966-7 and President of the Yorkshire Divisional Union as it was known then in 1973. She was an active member attending her last meeting two weeks before her death from a heart attack. The tribute quoted her cousin, Audrey Bell, remembering her as “a very friendly lady with a wonderful sense of humour who loved company”.
Mary left a bequest to S.I. Keighley and after much discussion it was decided that her passion was “programme action” out of all that she had been involved in through Soroptimism. It was decided to buy a silver frame and to make an award on an annual basis at Yorkshire Regional meeting to the best club programme action in the preceding year. This to be decided with the use of “programme focus reports” and between Regional President, Regional Programme Action Officer and Keighley President.
It was decided in 2012 to award to S.I. Keighley for their S.A.M.E. project which had drawn much attention at regional and national level. President Sylvia Wilson thought it was appropriate as Mary Hillary would have been proud of the work being done with Asian mothers at Eastwood school by her own club. The original frame had not been returned at the end of one award and got ‘lost’ in confusion. However it has now been found and returned to Keighley club to continue with the annual award. We hope all clubs will remember to return at the end of their year of award in the future.
In remembering one woman who “made a difference” in her Soroptimist journey through life we should be proud that there are many more Soroptimists who also “make a difference” in their clubs and communities throughout Yorkshire and the U.K.