An AUCHINLECK woman has given up her teaching job to start her own ‘memory bear’ business, providing immense comfort to those grieving loved ones after losing her own mother to cancer just one day after the country went into lockdown.

Libby Graham Wallace, 42, worked as a classroom assistant at Auchinleck Academy and has been Principal Teacher at Fusion School of Dance in the village for over 20 years.

But events following the COVID-19 outbreak delivered a series of devastating blows for the mum-of-five as schools closed, dance classes ground to a halt and her mum, Janette, tragically lost her battle with cancer mid-March.

To help her five-year-old daughter cope with the loss, Libby decided to create a ‘memory bear’ out of her mother’s housecoat. After posting a picture of the bear on social media, orders soon came flying in and so ‘Beloved Bears by Libby’ was born.

Libby said: “I didn’t expect to lose my mum. It was hellish. She took ill just after Christmas then went into hospital in January. After just 11 weeks, she passed away the day after lockdown. My whole world turned upside down overnight.

“My sister and I were packing away my mum’s clothes and came across a few sentimental items we couldn’t get rid of. All my girls were close to my mum but my five-year-old took it particularly hard so one night I sat up until 2am making a bear out of my mum’s housecoat. I put it on Facebook and couldn’t believe the response. It was absolutely phenomenal.

“Within hours I had someone contact me asking if I could make a retirement bear for her sister who was a nurse and someone else wanted two keepsake bears for her granddaughter. It just snowballed to the point where I’m making nearly 10 a week and am choc-a-bloc until January.”

Cumnock Chronicle: NHS Memory BearNHS Memory Bear

Libby has now made almost 100 bears for the bereaved, COVID victims and NHS staff, with each one turning out unique, just like the individual from which the material derives.

She says the venture has helped the grieving process and is “humbled” that people trust her with their loved ones’ garments.

Libby said: “I made one for a grandson whose grandad worked in ASDA but unfortunately died from COVID so I made the bear out of his polo shirt. I’ve had quite a few bizarre requests as well with one person asking me to make a bear out of a cat bed for their cat who’d passed.

“Every bear has their own wee personalities and I know my mum is keeping an eye over my shoulder as I do them as she always did. Bringing comfort to other people brings me comfort.”

Cumnock Chronicle: A special Memory Bear made out of an ASDA uniform.A special Memory Bear made out of an ASDA uniform.

Visit to see her designs.