A Tribute to Dear Sus

Dearest Sus,

I remember when we moved onto Bayshore Drive, in the house right next to yours. You  and Salu gave us an instant and warm welcome. You invited us into your home. We enjoyed beautiful dinner’s together over wine and intently listened to wonderful stories about the Safety Harbor Spa, back when it was a destination vacation, and when Salu was part owner.

Wether it be dinner at our house or your’s, we always enjoyed wonderful evenings together, with lots of laughs and great conversations.

I remember when we lost Salu all too soon. We were grateful for the memories we made  and the time we got with him. He always made us laugh, and he was such a giving man. You held the family together during that difficult time, and I know it was a very difficult time for you as well, but you were so strong.

It was then that Doug and I first discovered how many loved and adored you, Salu and your beautiful family. Those who came to celebrate his life, from all over the world, gave evidence to the impact you and Salu had on so many.

The month’s went by and your grieved, but you were strong.

I remember when Lise and Jan came for their yearly visit, we enjoyed some wonderful meals and evenings together. One evening you, Lise, and Jan cooked a beautiful Danish meal for us, and Ole joined us that night too. On another evening, we taught you guys how to make Italian meatballs. Lise taught the girls how to draw, Ole cuddled the little cat that ran between our house and your’s, and we enjoyed chats in the morning together over fruit and coffee.  As the years passed, we always loved our yearly visits with Lise,  Jan, Ole, and all of your Danish friends that would visit.You aren’t in these shots because you were always up and running, preparing something for your guests and making sure everyone had what they needed. You were always the best hostess.

I remember the occasional time you’d join us for a walk downtown for a festival or 3rd Friday Night. Those were fun evenings, and it meant so much to us to have you there. We experienced the new things in the harbor together, and got to hear about the way the harbor used to be. We enjoyed the music at the gazebo, and we all agreed it was time to head home to peace and quiet when the crowd began to grow.

I remember the mornings we enjoyed coffee together, while looking out over the water that sparkled like diamonds. I always thought I was the only one who saw the water hold diamonds atop it’s surface, until I met you.

We’d also watch the birds play in the fountain, and the squirrels on the porch. Of course, we can’t forget about our cute furry friend Nigel, the little bunny that hopped between our yard and your’s.

Nigel
Nigel

I remember when you brought the Danish Easter egg to the girls, the first Easter we were here. You explained the tradition to them, and they were fascinated by it.

I remember the first time I got to view your doll making station. The little nook at the top of the winding staircase, housed the most beautiful handmade doll ornaments.  I’m not surprised these dolls were sought by many around the world. You made this one for me when I graduated nursing school.

Handmade doll, made by Sus my beautiful friend and neighbor
Handmade doll, made by Sus my beautiful friend and
neighbor

And, here’s a great article about the work you did: Sus’ doll story

I remember the time I got the honor to interview you for a paper I had to write in nursing school. During that interview, that we chunked into 3 sessions, I got to learn about your life as a child, your life with Salu and how you met, your wedding day, the years in which you raised your children and some of your favorite family vacations. That was one of my most memorable experiences with you, and I’m so grateful that you allowed me to know you on a deeper level. I’m fascinated  by the amazing life you lived and I feel honored to have known you.

I remember those other times in nursing school, during finals week, when you allowed me to study in one of your bedrooms upstairs. I love my girls and my home, but to be in a quiet room, that you so graciously opened to me during those busy months, was exactly what I needed. You knew that. You always had great intuition.

I remember that night when a bad storm hit the harbor, and you joined us for family movie night. That was fun.

I remember the times you’d sweep the hair out of my eyes and tell me to get a haircut.

I remember the many occasions that we threw parties, and we’d run to your house for more tables or  to use space in your garage fridge, when the space in our fridge for party food was gone.

I remember the evenings we spent together on the dock, sipping wine and watching the beautiful birds perched upon your dock.

I remember all the times Doug made and delivered dinners to you, and I don’t say that to boast on him, but I mention it because you meant SO much to him. He loved you dearly, and you were like another mother to him. He was always happy to do anything for you, because he cared for you so much.

I remember the many gifts you showered upon the girls. You brought gifts back from Denmark for them. You brought gifts for every birthday. You brought them gifts for Easter and Christmas. Whenever I’d say, “I’m going to Sus’s”, they’d ask to come. They loved you so much. Here are 2 notes Sophie wrote; one for you and one for me (as she watched me cry throughout the weekend). Sara processed it a little different, with continuous hugs  hugs and “I’m sorry mom” .

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scan

I remember the times you’d hug me goodbye after our quick or long visits, and right before I ran back over to my house. I could always feel your love.

I remember the many July 4th celebrations we shared together, some of them in the pouring rain. We also celebrated many birthday’s and holiday’s together. Our family felt complete when you were there.

I remember your 70th birthday party, that was held at the Safety Harbor Spa. People from all around the world came to celebrate you, and I’m not surprised a  bit. You were loved by so many!

photo-1

I remember that everytime there was a full moon, you’d call me, and ask if I could see it. You, Doug and I would meet on the side walk in front of our houses and stare in aww at the beautiful full moon and it’s reflection over the water. Then we’d offer words of gratitude for how blessed we are to live where we do, surrounded by such beauty.

Full Moon

I remember there were always visitors in your home. Wether they were friends just stopping by to say hi, or friends from Europe visiting, your house was always full of love, and open to anyone who wanted to stay. Everyone who visited your home felt like family, and you went out of your way to provide a great experience.

I remember we’d always check in on one another right before and after a big storm, and we did get storms, but we made it through all of them.

I remember the times you’d ask me why I chose that color for my toes.

I remember you honesty, your sense of humor, you warm smile, your hugs, your love and your friendship.

Sus, you will never ever be forgotten. Our hearts are broken, and the neighborhood feels different and empty now. I pull out of the driveway and long to see you sitting at the little round table in front of the big sliding glass door. This was so sudden and we wanted more time with you. So many people wanted more time, but you went fast and you didn’t suffer. That’s the way you wanted it. I’m not shocked by the huge stock of people that keep showing up in your home to pay there condolences to Nina, Natasha and Nick. You impacted so many lives and I only hope I can be half the woman you were.

I love you and already miss you terribly, but until we meet again, RIP dearest Sus.

Dear Nina, Natasha and Nick,

We’re so sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine the pain you must be going through. Your mother loved you guys so much, and she knew how much you loved her too. She was so grateful for the relationship she shared with each of you, and she mentioned it to us often. Thank you for sharing her with us. She meant so much to each one of us, and to many others all around the world. Please feel our love and hugs during this difficult time, and always know we are only next door or a phone call away if you need anything. 

Love, 

Doug, Lorena, Sara and Sophie

For my memory of you Sus, I’ve included a portion of the interview I did with you a few years back. This was an assignment I had to do in nursing school, and you were the first person that came to my mind.

Childhood- Growing Up
What is your first memory from your childhood?
“The sound of the sirens during WWII is probably the first thing I can remember about my childhood”, S.D. tells me. She told me that she remembers the loud and alarming sirens so vividly, and then when everyone would run and hide in the bunkers. She told me that the Germans set up training schools in the elementary school across from her apartment. That’s the extent of the discussion and I can tell that S.D. would like to move on to the next question.
What childhood trip is most vivid to you?
Every summer, S.D.’s father rented a summer house on the North Sea in Denmark, for the family to vacation together. The summer home was owned by an affluent painter that painted for the Royal Copenhagen. S.D. and her family would spend 6 weeks there every summer. It was there that S.D. first learned about jazz. On rainy days S.D. and her friends would buy 25 cent paper dolls to color and play with. Her father would set up treasure hunts for the kids, to keep them busy for hours. Instead of eating candy, S.D. and her family would beat egg yolks until fluffy and add sugar, “That was our candy”, she tells me then adds, “we didn’t have a lot of money, but a lot of love.”
During summer vacation, S.D. and her family would take long walks along the beach, in the farmland or over big hills. She tells me that her father would force her and her siblings to bathe in the beach right after waking in the mornings. She remembers it being very cold and her fathers reassuring words, “you’ll be warm the rest of the day now, since that was so cold”.
S.D. describes the summer house and the vivid little pictures she carries in her minds eye of long walks, paper dolls, beach baths and treasure hunts as her “happy place”.
What is your most vivid historical event?
S.D. tells me that her most vivid historical event is, “When I came here 50 years ago and John F. Kennedy was shot.”  She does not elaborate further then this and is ready to move on to the next question.
Did you have any fears while growing up? (i.e. fear of nuclear war/ terrorism of today)
One thing that S.D. struggles with now is claustrophobia and she attributes this to an experience she had in childhood. When she and her family were about to board a train (headed to the summer house for vacation), impatient people were pushing and shoving others to get on the train and she was shoved while trying to board. S.D. tells me that as she was shoved she almost fell between the train and the stage/platform. It was then that some quick thinking and observant stranger noticed and caught her by grabbing the neck of her shirt. She tells me that she will never forget that moment and how scared it made her feel. Since then she is claustrophobic and feels this is the incident that started it all.
What did your parents make you do that you hated?
S.D. states that there was nothing she can think of that she hated doing as a child, that her parents made her do. She helped her parents with laundry, shopping and doing the dishes, which naturally took time away from playing, but she knew she had to contribute and it was never an overwhelming amount or too time consuming since she and her family lived in a small apartment.
What did you use to do in the evening, before the days of television?
S.D. did not have a television in her home until she was 16 years old. She and her siblings huddled around their household radio in silence and anticipation as they listened to the latest mystery, which would end at a cliff hanging moment and leave them waiting anxiously for the continuation until the following week.
S.D tells me that Scandinavian people are social and  families would gather together during the week nights to eat big dinners together. Additionally, prior to television, S.D. and her friends would travel by foot for 30 minutes in order to purchase a fifty cent ice cream cone. She would also play cards with friends or color paper dolls in her free time as a child, before television.
What kinds of chores did you have to do as a child.
S.D. helped with laundry, shopping and dishes. She tells me of a time when her mother made shot glasses full of chocolate and liquor (possibly Kahlua) for her sisters 18th birthday. While her mother was carrying a serving platter full of these little delectable alcohol treats, the cuff of her sleeve was caught on a door handle and caused the tray to go flying and the glasses  tumbling. Chocolate and liquor covered and dripped down the walls and it was too much for S.D.’s mom to handle. So, her mom retired to her bedroom for the night. Then, S.D. was sent to the grocery store by her father for more alcohol and chocolate. She was very young then, and it was never questioned when a minor came running in for alcohol at the local grocery. She tells me that it was obvious to the cashier that it was an emergency and that the kid was probably “on duty” to help. That was how S.D. helped as a child. Shopping was one of her chores, wether it be for bread or emergency alcohol.
What social events and/or occasions did you look forward to?
S.D. loved Christmas time. Her father would make beautiful table decor and on Christmas Eve, after S.D. and her siblings were in bed, he would decorate the tree. The tree was barren until Christmas morning, when the magic began and the tree was lit and decorated. Christmas lasted for more then one day. S.D. and her family would travel by train to visit family for a second Christmas celebration. S.D. remembers her father making up songs to sing to the kids on the train ride home from holidays with family and one of those songs sounded something like this: “ We were supposed to have wine and cakes and only got greens from the garden…..”.
S.D. also remember the many occasions of getting up early before school to ride the train to the forest where she would ride a horse for an hour then travel back home, all before heading out of the house for school in the morning.
What did you remember about going to school?
S.D. says that she enjoyed school. She went to an all girls school for 13 years. The boys school was right next door. She enjoyed sports, and graduated with a major and honors in math, chemistry and physics.
Part of her continued education began when she moved to the United States to learn English. She moved to the U.S. only two months after graduation and did not know anyone. She received a 2 year degree as a medical secretary. While studying to become a medical secretary, S.D. worked in a Polio hospital which specialized in treating young patients with polio, the disabled and stroke and trauma victims.
Then she moved to Safety Harbor, Florida where she worked as a medical secretary at The Safety Harbor Resort and Spa before marrying, settling down and starting her family.
Young Adulthood:
What was life like as a young adult who was dating? What kinds of things did you do on a date?
S.D. states she remembers dating  Minoru Takeyama, one of her first boyfriends. They enjoyed walking through the forest, the beach and downtown together. They attended school dances together as well. Minoru loved art. He drew and he saw the beauty in simple things. S.D. says, “He was fascinating.” At one point they even traveled to Sweden together to visit S.D.’s sister and brother-in-law. Eventually, they went their separate ways but remained friends. S.D. and her husband Salu visited Minoru sometime later on. Minoru went on to become a famous Japanese architect, writer and teacher, which is evidenced by simply placing his name in a Google search to see his amazing contributions.
Who was the first president you voted for? Do you remember why you voted for him?
S.D. says, “I wasn’t a U.S. citizen until 1976, so possibly Carter was the first president I voted for. I can’t really remember. I do remember that I always voted democrat.”
What do you remember best about your wedding ceremony or wedding day?
S.D. states she had two wedding ceremonies. Her first wedding took place in Copenhagen on June 21, 1968 in a Lutheran church. They arrived at the church via horse and buggy. She and her fiancé Salu coordinated travel for 36 of their friends, from America to Europe. She says, “That was hard.” The wedding started at 4 pm and ended at 4 am. They ate  and danced, then at midnight started eating again. S.D. says, “ The sun was up when guests arrived for the wedding and the sun went down and up again when the guests left. That’s what people remember most about our wedding. Salu didn’t want the party to end. He didn’t want to leave, but they kicked us out.” From there they took  a honeymoon to Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and then landed in India, where the second wedding ceremony took place.
S.D. tells me that the second wedding ceremony in India was a complete culture shock for her. It was such a big extreme from their first ceremony. She continues by telling me that Indian ceremonies typically last for days, but “ours only lasted a day”. She says, “ the bride and groom sit on this stage and people watch you, like puppets. They come up and give you money and jewelry and offer a congratulations or a prayer.” S.D. laughs then continues……., “ typically the man sits higher up than the woman, the woman a step lower on the stage, but Salu knew I wouldn’t have that. So, before the ceremony he quickly got rid of the step. Danish women don’t put up with the step.”   She remembers that there were lots of traditions, like taking the shoes off and dancing around an open fire 7 times. Then she says, “We did two weddings because we made my parents happy in Denmark and Salu’s family happy in India, but I could have cared less where we got married.”
Then they traveled from India to Hong Kong, Hawaii, Las Vegas and then home, but the celebration did not end there. They traveled to The Pierre, a hotel in NYC across from Central Park, where they had a big reception with friends. The Danish and Indian Flags waved together in the park. S.D. chuckles as she says, “ The funny thing is that then we were married, but none of our papers were in English.”
How many children?
S.D. has 3 living children. She lost her first child when she was 7 months pregnant and gave her up for research. Her oldest daughter Natasha was born in 1971, her second daughter Nina in 1970 and her youngest son Nick was born in 1975.
What was it like to be a young parent? Was parenting different than it is today?
S.D. says she felt fortunate as a young parent because she had a lot of help. They had 3 au pairs and help with the house. She goes on to say that in Denmark many people become an au pair in order to learn a new language, so it was very common. She says that because her husband was in the hotel business, if she didn’t feel like cooking, they would just eat at the hotel. The she says, “ But Salu worked 12-15 hours a day, so that made it hard. I was the mother, father and everything to my kids because he was never home.” She says that she taught her kids to speak Danish as well.  When people would ask S.D.  how she would bring up the kids with the fact that she and her husband came from two different worlds,  S.D.’s response was always, “ I’ll teach them everything. ” S.D. feels very fortunate to have the best of many cultures and world’s.
S.D. says it may be harder today to parent if the mother is working and running the children around to all the different activities that come along with childhood and school.
What is your occupation?
From 1964-1967 S.D. worked as a medical secretary. She followed the doctors from room to room taking orders and transcribing. Then in 1967 she worked as a medical secretary at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa for 4 doctors and a nurse. S. D. tells me, “ then I married the boss, so I had to leave.” In 1985 she and her sister opened an antique store. They traveled through the U.S. and Denmark in search of antiques for their store. S.D. and her sister had a lot of fun together running their successful antique store. They ran the store until 2000. In 2000, Sus started making miniature dolls that can be hung on Christmas trees. The dolls begin with pipe cleaner but by the time they’re finished, the detail of each doll in impeccable. Some dolls have hats and a purse or a dog in one arm. Each one is different and unique. S.D. usually sells 1,000 dolls during the Christmas season and attends shows where her dolls are quickly snatched up by anyone passing by. S.D. says, “ I learned to play and make my own toys from my dad.”
What do you remember most about being a young adult (age 20-40)?
S.D. states that in her young adult life, “That was when everything happened. My  life circled around the kids and my husband. We traveled every year with the kids and my favorite place to visit was Estes Park in Colorado. We would take horse back rides in Colorado and ski in the winter. We rented a cottage every year and went with the kids. Salu and I would travel by ourselves as well. We’d drop the kids with my sister and go away for a week. We traveled the world together. Additionally, we also did a lot of entertaining in our home. I was a big part of the kids life and school and was president of the PTA.”
Later Adulthood:
Have you ever lived outside the U.S.? If yes, where?
S.D. grew up in Denmark. She later traveled to the United States, where she raised her family with her husband Salu in Safety Harbor, Florida.
She also lived in Long Island, NY for one year as an au pair.
Do you have parents or grandparents that were immigrants? If so, from where?
S.D.’s parents grew up in Denmark. She is unaware of where her grandparents grew up because she was only 2 years old when the last one passed away.
Have you decided where and how you want to live out the rest of your life?
When I ask S.D. if she has decided where and how she would like to live out the rest of her life she tells me, “ Everyone tells me I should move. ” S.D. lives in a big two story house. “ I don’t want to move. I want to stay here until I’m a little old lady. At least another 8-10 years.” She says that she’s not really sure how she wants to live out the rest of her life, but that she doesn’t want to leave her home.
Is there someone in your life with whom you can have a close, warm relationship?
S.D. says she has warm and close relationships with “groups of friends”. She continues by saying, “ I have my Danish friends, my antique lady friends, and my doll club friends.” She’s closest with her Danish friends and they meet often for lunch together. Sometimes they will even bring the menu along.
S.D. tells me that she has found that the friends she used to hang out with before her husband passed away, when they were a couple, have slowly disappeared. She finds it rather odd and sad.
S.D. also states that she has very close relationships with her daughters Nina and Natasha and her son Nick, along with the rest of her family.
Do you feel your living arrangements are satisfactory?
S.D. nods her head and says “ yes” when I ask her if she feels her living arrangements are satisfactory. She does not elaborate beyond that, so I move to the next question.
Have you had to adjust your standard of living since retiring?
S.D. deosn’t feel that she’s had to change much in her life since retiring. She says that she owes nothing to anyone. The only thing that S.D. could think of, is the fact that the people who helped her in the past with repairs, lawn care or house cleaning are aging as well and retiring. She has had to search for new people and new options with help with things she can’t do on her own.
What do you do to keep your health?
S.D. says she stays very busy, walks everyday, eats very healthy and takes a lot of vitamins. She says that if she’s feeling down, she’ll turn some music on. She likes classical music in the morning and jazz in the evening. She is a strong believer of natural remedies as opposed to doctor prescribed medications.
How many grandchildren? Great grandchildren?
S.D. has 5 grandchildren and no great grandchildren who live in Jacksonville and Seattle. She tries to visit her grandchildren as often as possible.
How often do you have contact with your children and grandchildren? Other relatives?
S.D. visits her daughter Nina, son-in-law and her grandchildren, who live in Jacksonville about once a month. She visits her other daughter Natasha and her family and grandchildren about 4- 5 times a year. They live in Seattle. Her youngest son Nick lives in Seattle as well and does not have a family yet. S.D. visits with him about 4-5 times a year. Being with family is very important to S.D.
What do you let your grandchildren do that your children could not do?
When I ask S.D. if she allows her grandchildren to do things her children could not do, she tells me, “ I’m actually pretty strict because you don’t do them any favors otherwise, but I do say it in a nicer way then I did with my kids.”  She tells me that she enjoys kids as they get a little older.
What kind of interests do you have outside the family?
S.D. used to love playing tennis, but because of a torn ligament in her shoulder she is no longer able to play. She currently enjoys making miniature dolls, reading, seeing a movie with a girlfriend, time with her friends, and traveling. S.D. recently arrived home from a trip to Copenhagen, where she spent time with her sister and brother-in-law and many friends.
Do you have any hobbies or collected anything?
S.D. collects antique dolls and as a hobby she makes miniature dolls.  The miniature dolls take a lot of time and start with pipe cleaner. She has built a strong cliental over the years and most of  her dolls are purchased from loyal customers or by word of mouth. She can make up to 20 dolls per week, or 100 per month. She sells most of her dolls during Christmas time (typically 1000), because they hang well on a Christmas tree.
Have you ever played a musical instrument?
S.D. played the piano “way back when”, then passed it on to her daughters Nina and Natasha. S.D. says, “Music is a big part of my life. I love listening to public broadcasting.”
What is your strongest asset?
S.D. feels that her strongest asset is her acceptance of different cultures and different people. Her life was full of travel and she experienced many different cultures, including  her marriage with Salu, who came from a completely different lifestyle. She says, “ I give my father credit for teaching us that we should never think ourselves better than anyone else. I feel happy that I got the best of many different worlds and cultures.”

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