Inducted: October 24, 2001
Mary Edith Bishop earned the reputation of being a very hard worker, who was willing to spend any amount of time and effort making things better for her family, and for the farm community she loved.
Her friends in Women's Institute remember her "as a very giving person, independent, and a volunteer for all good causes". One friend said, "She lived every day, and she lived it to the fullest." Her life was not always easy, but she accepted whatever came with good grace. A good friend recalled, "she never saw herself as 'poor me!'"
Mrs. Bishop was, in the opinion of another friend, "the most optimistic person you could ever imagine". That optimism influenced every organization in which she was active; and that included pretty well all community organizations. She was generosity personified, "a very kind person. She would give you the shirt off her back."
Mrs. Bishop was the daughter and only child of Roy and Velma Woods, of South Raleigh. She attended S. S. 8, Raleigh Township, then went on to take a business course at Chatham Vocational School, the forerunner of Chatham-Kent Secondary School.
She married Murray John Bishop, on November 25, 1950 at Victoria Avenue United Church, Chatham, and immediately switched her primary interest from West to East Kent. With her marriage, she acquired two children, Eugene and Patricia, and the family grew with the arrival of Wendy, Debbie, Barry, and Shelley.
With her move to East Kent, Mrs. Bishop became involved in community organizations, especially the Women's Institute. She was a charter member of Palmyra Women's Institute, and in her half century with that group, she held all the executive positions at branch and district level and was Secretary-Treasurer at the area level. A tree planted in summer, 2000, by the Palmyra Women's Institute was an appropriate recognition of her vitality, and of her kindness to the wide circle of people that she loved.
Mrs. Bishop was a 4-H Homemaking Club leader for some 15 years, beginning in 1961 as assistant leader with the Garden Club. She was also active with Junior Farmers, a continuation of her work with 4-H. She was deeply involved in the Ridgetown Agricultural Society and the Ridgetown and District Fair Board, which she represented at regional meetings in Toronto. Her interests and participation in the Ridgetown Fair grew over the years. In 1983, she started working in the Domestic Sciences; and four years later, she was Secretary-Treasurer of Home Crafts. She went on to become Representative of Home Crafts Division in 1992; and President in 1996.
Mrs. Bishop was awarded, posthumously, The Agricultural Service Diploma presented by the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies in August, 2000, in appreciation of her unflagging work and support of the Fair and Agricultural Society.
Mrs. Bishop was interested in, and ready to work for any project that benefited her community. She was on the founding committee of Orford-Highgate Neighbourhood Watch, and worked diligently for the Palmyra Community Club. She helped organize and promote the card parties, bingos and other projects that raised money to maintain the Palmyra Community Hall. She was a member of the committee to develop Agriculture in the Classroom Kits.
Mrs. Bishop shared her husband's responsibilities on the 200-acre home farm. There was no farm job she did not tackle, from the operation of farm machinery to field work. She helped Murray with a farm hardware business; and with a Pioneer Seed Corn Dealership for 44 years, carrying on after illness limited his participation. She was a Secretary/Clerk for the Kent County Board of Education from 1969 to 1982.
Anything she had was available to the community organizations that needed it, from photocopier to popcorn equipment. She was known as the "Ice-cream Lady", or "The Popcorn Lady", to young people across the county. Her lunch wagon, serving pop, hot dogs and hamburgers, was a familiar and popular institution at rural events, including auction sales and plowing matches. She operated food booths at fairs, schools, and special community events like Buffalo Days, and the Teddy Bear Picnic, in Ridgetown and Grand Ole Days, in Florence.
Mrs. Bishop operated an Ice-cream and Dairy Booth at Ridgetown Fair for 14 years, providing healthful, if not traditional, fair food.
She enjoyed her grandchildren: Scott, Angela and Jennifer Bishop: Michelle and Sally Balmer: Jody, Joel, Jeremy and Robert Bellamy: Stephanie and Derrick Bishop: and Stephen Grey Bishop.
Mrs. Bishop faced life's challenges with great courage. She was in a coma after an operation in 1994 for an aneurysm, but she learned, painstakingly, to walk and function again. She had accompanied her daughter, Wendy, and son-in-law, Raymond Jackson to Valparaiso, Indiana, for the kind of visiting week-end visit she enjoyed, when she suffered a fatal heart attack.
Her friends have wonderful memories of her. "She was a loving and much-loved person."