“If Queen Street had the lights of Broadway they would have dimmed at the sudden passing of Suzanne.” ~ The O’Donnell Family
Suzanne grew up in a house on Glen Manor Drive East across from the bridge her mother, Anne, petitioned to save. In the sixties, she and her four siblings walked everywhere: through the ravine, along Queen Street, down to the beach and to St Denis school. It was a time when even young children were sent outside to play and didn’t come back until the streetlights came on. Even at this very young age, Suzanne had a strong sense of right and wrong. She was incredibly responsible, a very good listener and had a sharpened sense of duty to others: family, friends and strangers.
Sharing relationships was Suzanne’s gift. She was giving, kind and reliable.
With a degree from the University of Toronto in Fine Art, Suzanne expressed her artistic passion through retail and urban renewal. She was skilled in product placement and understood the needs of the customer. She took pride in her work and businesses benefited from her employment with them. This included Queen stores such as M&Ms, Midoco and most memorably, Mastermind. Suzanne cleverly designed and sewed costumes to wear on Queen for friends and kids. She dressed up for holiday themes with co-workers to entertain children throughout the year.
Over the years, Suzanne remained true to her community as she committed herself to the proliferation of local and independent business through her advocacy and support of new ventures proposed to the Beaches Business Association. The BBA eventually evolved into the Beach Village Business Improvement Association, of which Suzanne was Chair.
Suzanne walked. She did not own a car. Her encouragement of “feet to the street” was promoted with several annual events such as movies and music in Kew Park. The purpose of these large events was to thank residents for their patronage at local businesses. The BIA streetscape committee refreshed Kew Gardens by designing an accessible park and adding hanging baskets, planters, new bike rings and garbage bins, while removing graffiti to beautify the park for everyone. As Chair of the Beach Village BIA, Suzanne accomplished many improvements with the desire to help Queen Street thrive. In the past year, she was committed to getting empty storefronts cleaned and affordably rented to independent business owners, as she was concerned about absentee landlords/developers and the changing dynamic of our community. She was working closely with the City to make changes to laws to reverse this trend.
While Suzanne was a committed member of the business community she did not work in retail on Mondays. The Interfaith Lunch Program was extremely important to her and she voluntarily ran the program out of Corpus Christi Church where she was a faithful parishioner. She was a valuable member of a team of dedicated volunteers. The Interfaith group provides a warm lunch and social companionship for seniors and anyone in need. The Lunch Program rotates its service locations among faith groups each weekday morning starting at 11am. Suzanne was a founder of this outreach committee and appreciated new volunteers to support its initiative.
Her volunteering and commitment to help those in need also extended into her work with other groups: Catholic Women’s League at St John’s R.C. Church, Out of the Cold at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church, and the East End Refugee Committee at Kingston Road United. She believed that to be human was to be open and answer the call to serve. This included giving a room in her home to an Afghan woman new to Canada and in desperate need of a safe place. She never stopped providing meals for the homeless and the lonely.
Mondays were also reserved for her Guide groups. Suzanne took great enjoyment in developing programs, activities, and crafts with the intention of empowering young Spark girls into Brownies, Guides and eventually, remarkable women. For more than 35 years, Suzanne was a Brown Owl to our Beach daughters. She inspired them, took them to camps and overnights, taught them to sing and challenge themselves in a calm, patient and fun manner. Her work and dedication appeared easy and flowed naturally from her. However, volunteer work is not easy which is why she was always met with gratitude and respect.
Through Guiding, Suzanne saw the world: China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru, France, England and Ireland. She adored her travel friends and was looking forward to their next trip abroad. She soaked up information everywhere she went and was an avid reader and writer. This made for wonderful visits with Suzanne and would elicit laughter and curiosity in discussions.
All of this is what we will miss most about our Suzie. Her unique stoic reserve and gentle guidance allowed us to believe that we would find a way to solve a problem.
Suzanne was all of this to me. She was the oldest sister and I was the youngest when my mother, Lee, married her father, George, in 1982. This marriage placed Suzanne as the second of seven children. When I was nine and Suzanne was twenty-one, she led me into the kitchen and set up the soapy water to wash plates, cutlery, glasses, pots and greasy pans. She put an apron over her head and wrapped it around her waist. We talked freely as we did the dishes together on Sunday nights after weekly dinners. Our weekly conversations developed into our deeper knowledge of one another. Suzanne would dry with a fresh tea towel as she seamlessly moved around the kitchen putting everything away. She knew where everything went even though she did not live in the house.
As years passed, Suzanne became a godmother to my children who affectionately called her, “Godmother Sue.” She brought part of a meal for each holiday dinner and at the end of every meal, we were together again, cleaning up the kitchen and doing the dishes. She would thank people for helping.
We will all miss Suzanne, very much. Suzanne was an integral part of our family and the community.
“Suzanne, you should run for Council. You’d be the best!” my brother told her a year ago.
She said, “If I was on Council, I would have to give up the Lunch Program and the Guides and I’m not prepared to do that. I think I will stay put. I’m happiest where I am now.”