This NHS neonatal nurse at Blackpool Victoria is turning tatty old clothes into lasting memory teddies

A nurse at Blackpool Victoria has started a side-business making memorial teddies after losing her mum in 2019.

By Lucinda Herbert
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 3:45 pm

Sue Dupree, 50, works on the neonatal ward, but she had to cut back her hours to meet demand for the hand-sewn bears.

The mum of two lives with her three dogs in Marton. She made her first teddy – Tilly the elephant, in memory of her mum, Anne Dineen.

But the idea took off when her colleagues at the Vic saw the stuffed toy.

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Sue Dupree makes memorial teddies out of old clothes - it started when her mum died of Parkinson's and she had an old coat so she made it into a teddy as a way of remembering her. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

"They were all asking if I could make one for them. I even made a mascot for the neo natal ward where I work, and it built from there.

Sometimes she includes a lock of hair, or a fabric pouch containing a person’s ashes.

But they’re not just for loved ones who have passed away.

“A lot of people think memorial teddies have to be for someone who has died, but it can be for any occasion where you might want a lasting memory.

Sue Dupree makes memorial teddies out of old clothes - it started when her mum died of Parkinson's and she had an old coat so she made it into a teddy as a way of remembering her. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“One family pooled together to make a teddy for their son to take travelling. It even included a leather wallet from their late grandfather.”

She’s also had requests for a stuffed dog out of a pet’s old blanket, and high school leaving bears.

Sewing the teddies has kept the NHS worker going through the pandemic.

“Being a nurse during Covid has been hell, so making these has been so cathartic. It switches my brain off from what’s going on at work.”

Sue Dupree makes memorial teddies out of old clothes - it started when her mum died of Parkinson's and she had an old coat so she made it into a teddy as a way of remembering her. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

She also crochets – and she knits a little heart to go inside each bear as a symbol.

“Some include a little verse too: ‘This is something I used to wear, hold it close and know I’m there’.”

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Sue moved to Blackpool in 2014 to be near her mum after she started showing signs of dementia.

Sue Dupree makes memorial teddies out of old clothes - it started when her mum died of Parkinson's and she had an old coat so she made it into a teddy as a way of remembering her. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Mum, Anne, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at 60, and died at 71.

It all started when she was clearing out Anne’s stuff and found her old jacket.

Sue said: “This multicoloured fleecy thing was mum’s favourite coat. Even when she lost loads of weight she still wore it everywhere.

We used to try and hide the coat because it started to look silly.

Finding it made me laugh and cry at the same time.”

So she made the special coat into a stuffed elephant, name Tilly – her mum’s family nickname.

It went to the funeral at Lytham Crematorium, and the church service in South Shore.

“It was passed around, and then it sat on the coffin during the service. I had to restuff the elephant afterwards because she’d been squashed.”

Now it stays in Sue’s bedroom at George Avenue, as a comfort.

She said: “Clothes mean a lot to people, and they hold so many memories.

"I’ve had people come to me with an old dressing gown and they just didn’t know what to do with it. It was just sat in a drawer, so by making a teddy at least it could be out on display.”