Today you will hear/have heard tributes to Susan representing the different ways she touched us all. She was many wonderful things to many people. Her warmth, humanity, friendship and love is reflected in the attendance of so many of you here today. Susan had a wide circle of friends and a loving husband but I am the only one here who can proudly say she was my sister.
Although we were sisters, with only a few months between us in age, we had different personalities from the start. While I loved nothing more than perfecting my plié in ballet lessons, Susan could usually be found mucking out and galloping round the paddock at the Horse Rangers. This diversion in interests sometimes led to the occasional quibble. After taking offence over one little argument Susan decided to exact her revenge. I had a very special teddy that I loved very much. When my back was turned she smuggled the bear away and proceeded to cut all its fur off. As if that wasn’t bad enough she then covered it in black boot polish. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps concerned by my early love of fashion, Susan was trying to prove that affection shouldn’t be based on looks alone. If so I certainly learned my lesson and have kept that bear to this day. But Susan atoned for her crime by allowing me to do something I’d been wanting, or should I say threatening to do for some time – cut her fringe! Susan thus became my first hairdressing client, aged 5.
Susan was a spirited and clever student. She eased her way confidently through Millfield school and from a young age had that thing that doesn’t come easily to most – a certainty about her choice of career. She knew she wanted to attend secretarial college and go on to work in business. She duly won a place at Clarks College and latterly her diploma.
In the mid 60s that self-same surety of Susan’s own personality combined with her love of music to affect a small change of identity. She was never so keen on the name Susan. The Beatles’ song ‘Hey Jude’ had just been released and obviously made something of an impact. As she was Susan Judith Jones she asked her friends to adopt an abbreviation of her middle name and call her Jude. Whether she insisted that it was because Paul McCartney had actually written the song about her I don’t know. But I do know that the name stuck and some of you still know her as ‘Jude’.
After finishing her education Susan showed her adventurous side by heading off to live in Australia and explore New Zealand. Today many teenagers think of nothing to catch a long haul flight or go on a gap year. But in the late 60s to travel aged 18 to the other side of the world was quite a thing and I admired her greatly for it. The flight was astronomically expensive so she went by boat – 6 weeks there and 6 weeks back. She managed to find work down under and stayed for more than two years. But all missing her as we did we were delighted to welcome her back to the UK.
Upon her return she worked in London before finding a job at Stevens in Wooburn. They’re famous for their sturdy wooden furniture. But even by their standards of durability and reliability Susan stood out. She worked there for 25 years. The office was her life, providing her with many friends and happy memories. It was of course at Stevens where she first met her husband Graeme. They were to spend decades of happiness together and of course were married 4 years ago, going on to create a stunning home in Berkshire.
Outside of work Susan kept up a strong set of interests. She did a great deal of voluntary work of which we were all incredibly proud. She served her community as a Parish Councillor. Also she became what’s referred to as an ‘Appropriate Adult’: offering support to vulnerable adults and young people who find themselves detained in Police custody. As kind and responsible as Susan was I can’t think of a more appropriate adult than her for such a role. She always was a fantastic listener and I know there are many of us here, who if we found ourselves going through times of difficulty, would turn to Susan for support. She would always be only too happy to give it.
Her affection extended to our family. She was extremely fond of her niece and nephew and their children – her grand-nieces and nephews. She did of course love her dogs, particularly Jack Russells. She gave Maisy and Jake a fantastic home.
Of course, when it came, her illness was a great shock to us all. The nature of it meant that the outlook was never good. For a lesser person it would have been a crushing blow. But Susan bore her illness extremely bravely and with great dignity and fortitude. She took the attitude that she was going to make the most of whatever time she had left, still enjoying a gin and tonic up until two days before she died. I’m sure it was this attitude that allowed her to surprise her doctors by far exceeding the life expectancy she was originally given.
I never once heard a word of complaint from Susan and I think this points to the fact that she felt she had led a good life. Although she was taken from us at all too young an age she felt that she had made the most of her time with us and could leave in good conscience and good heart. That’s surely something we all aspire to and Susan achieved it.
There was one good thing about Susan’s illness. It brought us closer together. She was an independent person her entire life. Although we were always on good terms, she led her life and I led mine. But spending more time with her as I did throughout the last few years it brought home to me what a fantastic friend, wife, aunt, godmother and, above all, person she was.
Susan loved Abba, and her favourite song was Dancing Queen. I can picture her now at family parties – glass of pinot grigio in hand, with a big smile on her face, gracing the dance floor to that particular song. That’s how I will remember her – as my dancing Queen.