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Call Her “Susie”; A Life of Both Hardship, and Strong Faith. Part Seven; The Eighties.
The Olds, Old St. Mary's, and Father Tom.
Crazy Times Ahead.
I've decided to write mom's story, because it is her faith which inspires my faith. In fact, mom has touched countless lives through her example of faith and perseverance, even through what for many would be impossibly tough times. I hope that you will gain some inspiration, as her story unfolds.
In this installment, the 1980s come to light.
As Told to Her Son, Stuart.
As stated in part six, Stuart graduated from St. John’s New Haven in the Spring of 1979. For the next four years, Susie would work hard, scrimp, save, and sacrifice much to see to it that Stuart furthered his Catholic Education at Bishop Luers High School, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During that time, Stuart was privileged to go on several school related trips; the first of which was during his freshman year, when he went to Chicago, during the first visit of John Paul II to the United States.
On May 9th, 1982 Susie’s father, Cyril, died in Yuma, Arizona, of complications from emphysema, and was cremated in Fort Wayne. His cremains were interred at St. John the Baptist Cemetery, in New Haven, next to his wife, Wreatha Mae.
In the winter of 1982, Susie’s friend, Dorothy, and her son (and Stuart’s friend) Dennis, moved in with the Sextons, after their house burned down. The two of them lived with the Sextons until the Summer of 1983, when Dorothy made false accusations of verbal and emotional abuse by Susie, thus poisoning the relationships between Susie and some of their mutual friends. Susie evicted Dorothy right away, but allowed Dennis to stay for two months.
(One friend, Bea, died years later, still believing Dorothy’s side of the story, apparently never haven forgiven Susie for her alleged behavior. A second friend, Sharon, eventually reconciled with Susie, and came to believe in her side of the story. To this day, there is nothing Sharon won’t do for Susie. Susie’s best friend, Lynn, never bought Dorothy’s story for one moment. Until her death, Lynn remained a steadfast, true friend. Dennis never blamed Susie, and became estranged from his mother after having seen how she had behaved. It‘s uncertain as to whether or not Dennis ever reconciled with Dorothy before her Death in 2014.)
Prior to the falling out with Dorothy, both Stuart and Dennis graduated from high school (Stuart from Bishop Luers, and Dennis from New Haven) in May of 1983 and were to have their graduation parties on the same day. On the date of the party, Susie was fired from a restaurant which she was working part time at.
On June 13th, 1983, Susie’s older brother James R. “Dick” Elwood died of congestive heart failure and fluid in the lungs. A long time alcoholic, Dick had also developed other health complications, including gout, and had literally drowned in the hospital, as fluid filled his lungs.
For nearly a year after having been fired, Susie searched for work. Then, in early 1984, she caught pneumonia, and remained sick and bedridden for about a month. During this time, she stopped smoking, and she has never wanted a cigarette since. Less than a week after she recovered from her illness, she found a job in a factory, where she worked until her retirement, in December of 1991. (Her son, Stuart, found work in the same factory, in the late summer of 1984, and worked there until the summer of 1991)
It was in the spring of 1987 that Stuart, at the age of 23, finally learned to drive, and bought his first car (a 1978 Olds Cutlass Supreme) from his Aunt Lois (“Annie”) and Uncle Robert (“Bob”) Swartz (Susie’s sister and brother-in-law). Now, for the first time in decades, the two of them were able to attend Mass on a regular basis. So, they joined St. Mary Mother of God Catholic Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana, under the pastorship of Father Thomas O'Connor.
Unfortunately, in the summer of that year, while driving home, Stuart and Susie were in an auto accident. The car was totaled, and Susie’s pelvis was crushed, and her right leg was broken in several places. It was in the ER that Susie took a very frightened Stuart’s hand, and said to him, in a strong a voice as she could muster, “God is with you, son. Don’t be afraid.” Susie did recover, but had both circulation problems and increased arthritis in her right leg and hip from that time onward. Still, this was a time of tremendous growth in faith for mother and son.
Work in the factory was hard, but they were able to enjoy life as well, and vacations together were cherished as blessings, and helped to build up a strong bond between Susie and her son. And, of course, as Susie will tell you, God was indeed with them.
Until next time, remember, God is with you.