Friends and family gathered together yesterday to celebrate the life of Suzette Riggs, Sue who died earlier last month. Sue had requested a non-attendance cremation, which puzzled some but had to be respected. The following are the words spoken by the Celebrant, Helen Salway-Roberts from Hillside Ceremonies:
“Hello how lovely to see you all as we join together to celebrate the life of one of Broadwindsor`s finest our very own Sue Riggs, a woman who was strong of mind and will, a tiny woman with broad shoulders where many here will have laid your weary heads or shed a tear, for that was her way, the unofficial social worker, confidante , and wise ol’ bird of Broadwindsor.
How are you managing without her ?, for when the proverbial hit the fan , she`s the one you turned too, she`d know what to do, the one who could help is not here when we need her the most, the giver of sound advice, every community needs a Sue Riggs.
We`ll never know why Sue made the decision to not have a funeral, opting for a non attended cremation, but you can be sure it would not have been made lightly, no she`d have thought it through, and it would have been made with the best of intentions, my hunch is that she was trying to protect and spare you her friends, her loved ones from the pain and heartache of a funeral ceremony.
As a funeral celebrant you could say I am a bit biased , but it seems to me that goodbyes are important and they need to done with others who miss that special person who is no longer with us.
We also need to celebrate together the life that has ended, we don`t need a chapel or church to remember, this hall definitely feels right, how many times has your Sue celebrated in this village hall, how many village shindigs and shenanigans has Sue been party to here , if these walls could talk eh !.
She loved you her friends and family, she`d not see this gathering as going against her wishes, I think she`d be chuffed to see you all here, no big fuss it`s not a funeral , it`s a doo, and she loved a bit of a doo, so we`ll have a natter, they`ll be chance for you all to chip in if you want to as we take a trip down memory lane ,there`ll no formal eulogy that wasn`t her thing, and then we`ll share slice a cake, there had to be snack, no one left Sues company hungry.
Every morning she`d put on her trusty red lipstick, back in the day she`d rock a classic beehive, just so , lookout world here I come, do not be fooled by her tiny stature but she was a proper firecracker who took no prisoners you knew where you stood, and to stand at Sue`s side was a good place to be, a heart the size of a planet, who loved and was loved indeed always will be loved dearly.
And that’s what brought you all here today, to remember, and remember well.”
Helen then welcomed Julie & Sally to speak:
It is so lovely to see so many of you here today, thank you all for being here. Sally and I would like to share some special memories but together by our mum and by us of Sue.
Suzette (Sue) – Wife, mum, mum-in-law, Granny, Sister, Auntie & Friend. What special memories and love we have all shared for Sue. Suzette was born in 1946 the youngest of four children, sister to John, Peter and Myrtle. She was Affectionately known as Lettuce when she was a little girl although we are not sure how that came about or by whom do you know Pete? Being another girl it was taken as read that when old enough she would tag along in her sister’s shadow. Sue tagging along was not always cool and not always welcomed, so inevitably there were times when she was subjected to the odd prank or two. She also had to spend time as a lookout in case Nan came back while mum was up to no good.
She was also a bit of a prankster herself, when our dad first came to live in the village he was walking his dog down the road when Suzette and her friend shouted “ Hey Terry your dog just peed in our milk” obviously dad was unsure whether this was true or not so he gave them the money to buy some more, but not before he threw the other away. He still doesn’t know to this day whether it was-true or not and she would never ever let on.
When the two sisters were older and the age gap not as meaningful one thing soon became clear and that was their friendship and love for each other, which carried them right through their adult life, along with their love for their big brothers John and Peter, and Peters wife Pat. It must also be mentioned that Suzette had a big Soft spot for our father Terry and regarded him as another big brother.
Once mum and dad took Sue on a trip to WestBay, they were hungry and decided to buy Harvest Fruit Pies for lunch ( who remembers them) ? At that time there were many different flavours and combinations of flavours. Suzette was sent to buy the pies ( how difficult could that be)? All three wanted something different, Suzette wanted Apple, dad wanted Pineapple and mum wanted Pineapple and Apple. Off Suzette went with the order but was soon back with a confused look on her face saying “but that is four pies when there is only the 3 of us”, she never did get it that the Pineapple and Apple were one flavour, even recently she still couldn’t make sense of the request.
There was also a time as a teenager when Suzette had a little too much to drink, she went next door to the Fursemans to sober up, Nan kept asking if anyone had seen Suzette but this was denied wholeheartedly by all of them “ no Mrs Gay they said innocently we haven’t seen her” . She was kept with them until sober enough to return home, Nan never any the wiser.
It should be known that living next door to our grandparents, Suzette was a devoted daughter and was always there for them, Peter and mum played their part too but Suzette was the one that was always on hand.
Sally and I were her older nieces followed a little later by Karen and Tracey, Sally and I were never allowed to call her Auntie as this made her feel old but by the time Karen and Tracey came on the scene she got more used to the idea. Is that right Karen were you allowed to call her Auntie?
She was the cool, unshockable aunt, a confidant. As many of you know she had no aires and graces and would call a spade a spade which is what made her special as we all knew where we stood with her. She was always interested in what went on in our lives and loved to hear various stories of what we were all doing. Followed later by are own childrens antics and family lives.
One funny incident was on our dad’s 80th birthday and we had a party for him in Beaminster playing fields, to get there you had to climb a hedge bank, so not to miss out Suzette was piggy backed across the bank by my eldest son Jon, how they didn’t fall in the ditch on the other side I still don’t know to this day as they were laughing so much and wobbling like they were on ice, both survived and did it again on the way back over.
Finally we mention those who always came first to Sue, Wayne of course and his wife Elaine and their daughters Holly and Lorna, she was so proud of you all, and everything you have and will continue to achieve as a family.
To you all – just try to remember that where there’s love there’s memories and with those memories there are smiles and one day laughter again of the times you shared together.”
Helen then read out a personal message from a dear friend, Anna Russell:
<< I met Suzette in July 2001. I was a newly qualified teacher employed at Broadwindsor Primary School and at the time Suzette was the cleaner and all round Social Worker!!! The best and most skilful in her game!!
Suzette( and Mini the dog!) befriended me from day one. She was the kind of person who within ten minutes had asked enough questions and had had enough experience to know just who you were! I was a DORSET girl so I was O.K.! She reminded me instantly of my Portland granny who employed just the same tactic!!
Ten minutes became 21 years! From colleagues to friends and near family. Suzette became my second mum (Endorsed by my own mum and dad who have met her on several occasions and always held her in the highest esteem because of the care and love she always bestowed upon me !).
We continued to support one another even when Suzette retired and I left the school at Broadwindsor to start a new life in Portland in 2018. Suzette was anxious that I’d be lonely, but after a visit including a fish and chip lunch thought I’d be just fine!
We supported one another throughout the pandemic with our calls throughout the day, every day and some surprise visits from me and some very hairy bikers!!
I miss Suzette, Mrs Riggs, my Friend dearly. >>
Her closest friend Vanessa Studley then spoke:
Friendship and Love
A friendship is fondly found, forged and fashioned over 21 years.
A friendship started with a cup of tea in the ‘Fozzie’ cup and afternoon classroom visits with dearest Mini.
Our friendship is ‘Morning Chil’ ‘.
Always saying ‘I’m going on’ at the end of the day and ‘Night, night sleep tight’ every night before bed.
Friendship was larking and laughing. Riding in ‘chariots’, chasing froglets, hoovering artificial grass and delivering precious but forgotten Mother’s Day cards around our village.
Love is soothing happy and sad tears. Tough love, advice and honesty even when it hurts.
Love is picking up the pieces, dusting thoughts and tidying minds.
Love is being a second mum but no less cherished than my first.
Love is a pork chop or chips n egg made with a crinkly cutter.
Love, support and comfort always spanned the miles and the sea between us.
Love is having to say goodbye to my dearest friend but knowing that she will hold a place in my heart forever.
My what a wonderful difference one single life can make.
Our friend was at the heart and soul of this village, born in no2 Little Court, then when she married her beloved Sean she upped sticks and moved no 3 Little Court where she happily saw out the rest of her days, not that she`d not have a good moan when it was needed she was honest and forthright, you knew where you stood, never shy of putting you straight but more often than not it was laughter you heard from this house.
She loved her husband , wrapping her arms around him the squeeze of a woman who`s found her place in the world and knew exactly where she wanted to be, he was one lucky man.
You all were lucky, Broadwindsor was lucky, she`d taken herself off to foreign lands to earn a bob or two , working at Guppy`s of Bridport, The Pines of Beaminster , Van Heusen s of Crewkerne, but was none too impressed, there`s something to be said for knowing you mind and following your heart and Sues brought her straight back home to first work in the shop in Broadwindsor for a fair few years, until September 1st 1983 when she first rolled up her sleeves and set too in sorting our Broadwindsor Primary School, that`s everyone pupils and staff alike, initially as a dinner lady then as a cleaner, caretaker and key holder, the place where she saw out her working life, 33 years she devoted to your school, to your children, most likely to you, and even your parents, yep and league`s of fresh faced teachers too, who learnt more from our Sue than any text book or collage, as we have heard from her dear friend Anna , Sue was not just employed at that school she was that school.
And she took her pastoral responsibilities most seriously , so much so that she had to rope her pal Vanessa into sharing the cleaning with her, to free up more time to sort out the teachers complicated lives, her pearls of wisdom were in constant demand.
She loved kids, all kids , they made her laugh, do you think she had any idea just what a positive difference she had to all those little tackers lives, they loved Miss, everyone of them.
Remember her Tabard that classic uniform of a hard working woman of a certain era . intent on getting a job done, no messing, her pockets full of biscuit crumbs, from custard creams nicked from Becky`s lunch box.
Yes she was no Angel, Sue could be a right bugger, set her mind on something nothing got in her way, you`d be a fool to wouldn’t you, there was passion and spirit about her.
Loved her garden, growing her own prize winning veg, no Leeks rivalled Sue`s nor her tenderly nurtured Fuchsias that showed with pride at the Horticultural Show, though truth be told her husband grew them , though she watered them now and again.
She was a bit of an oracle in the village , nothing slipped past our Sue, she could keep Mum though, many a tale she takes to the grave.
Now read on behalf of Vanessa,
I think of things you used to say
And all that you would do,
At some point, every single day,
My thoughts will turn to you.
To lose you was a bitter wrench,
The pain cut to my core.
I cried until my tears ran out
And then I cried some more.
This wouldn’t be your wish for me
That I’d be forever sad
So I try to remind myself
Of the happy times we had.
I know I can’t be with you now
And you can’t be with me
But safe inside my heart you’ll stay,
That’s where you’ll always be.
“Thank you Vanessa , I`m sure that most people here today will identify with those poignant words, when we met to plan today Vanessa was very clear that it was not about her, she was adamant about that, it`s not about me she said again and again, I can see why she and Sue were such close friends, two very strong will straight talking women.
But I too can be strong willed, so I will override that instruction just briefly,and say loud and clear that this gathering would not have happened with out you, your efforts and determination to honour and say goodbye to your dear friend Sue.
Thank you, and to all those who have supported you in making today so special, and of course thank you Sue Riggs, for living a life that has been such a joy to revisit in this village hall in the place you called home.
I`ll now share a prayer
The Death Of Someone We Love
The death of someone we love and care about
Is like the death of part of us.
No one else will ever call out from within us
Quite the same responses, the same feelings or actions or ideas.
Their death is an ending of one part of a story.
Lord as we look back over Sue’s life
We ask what we have received, what we can appropriate
And continue on in our own lives and what must be laid to rest.
Our love for her reminds us that our sharing
In one another’s lives brings both support and pain.
Our being parted from her reminds us of our own mortality
And that your love is enduring.
We thank you that our love for Sue draws us together
And gives us a new appreciation of one another
And of the beauty and fragility of relationships
Which mirror your grace and goodness to us.
Lord, time’s tide may wash her footprints from the shore
But not our love for her nor the influence of her life upon our own
Nor the ways in which they will ever be a sign for us
Of those things which really matter-which are eternal.
Hear this prayer for your love’s sake.
Helen continued, “At the beginning of her beloved husband Seans funeral, Sue walked into the church to Vanessa singing Lay The Blanket On The Ground, saying that to hear her friends voice would remind her of happy days dancing with her hubby at Royal Oak.”
Thanks were given and those present shared some tea, home made sandwiches, delicious cakes and their memories of Sue.
Anyone wishing to donate in memory of Sue can do so by contributing to the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance HERE.
25.08.1946 – 14.04.2022