Family pays tribute to amateur baker who spent her life working for the NHS

Mary Oliver was volunteer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Mary Oliver was volunteer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital - Credit: Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Tributes have been paid to a woman who joined the NHS the year it was created and spent her life working in hospitals. 

Mary Oliver, a volunteer and former employee at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, died aged 94 in September. 

Mrs Oliver joined the NHS in 1948 at the age of 21 and began her career as a medical secretary.

When she retired, after spending years working for the NHS, the amateur baker took up volunteering at the NNUH and spent 30 years helping patients and staff. 

She was as much-valued member of the rheumatology department, carrying out administrative duties, accompanying patients to X-rays, collecting prescriptions, and making patients tea and coffee.

In an interview in 2017 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS, Mrs Oliver said she "loves to feel useful" and that she can "alleviate the workload from the staff". 

In a tribute her family described how she regularly baked cakes for the security staff at the hospital and made "delicious marmalade".

Most Read

They said: “Mary found her niche as the receptionist for the psychiatric outpatients clinic. 

"Rumour has it that the consultants were very happy to have her there as by the time their patients had spent 20 minutes in the waiting area discussing their various problems over a cup of tea with Mary, the doctor’s job was already more than halfway done.

"Oddly, Mary did have 'a very particular set of skills' domestically speaking – she knitted perfect fitted socks the old fashioned way on four needles, she made delicious marmalade and she baked an excellent fruit cake.

"Those cakes were regularly delivered to the security hut at the old NNUH, a blatant bribe in exchange for allowing her to sneak her Skoda into a spare corner of the consultants’ car park.

"Certainly Mary loved that hospital job and the people she worked with."

Mrs Oliver died at home on September 23, a stone's throw from where she was born, in the company of her son and the last of her rescue cats, Abbie.

Join our Norfolk’s Loved & Lost Facebook group for more tributes to those who have sadly left us. 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter