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Life Story / Obituary
With her intelligence, sense of humor, and ability to speak her mind, Suzanne's 79 years of life with us will never be forgotten. She lived her life with grand determination and a fierce amount of love for her family and friends. She was a loving wife, a caring mother, and a cherished grandmother and friend to many. We will miss her dearly.
Suzanne began her life in the year of 1938. During this time in history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt watched carefully as many actions abroad, especially involving Germany, began to ramp up conflict. The United States was also in a recession causing the unemployment rate to rise substantially to 19%; however, there was plenty to celebrate as well. The first service seeing eye dog was used, and Superman made his heroic appearance in a comic book to the delight of many children.
It was in 1938 that a great deal of excitement was created with Orson Wells’ radio adaptation of “War of the Worlds” when people panicked thinking the plot was breaking news rather than fiction. Closer to home, in Falmouth, Kentucky, much excitement was also experienced the day before Valentine's Day. Robert and Olive (Foreman) Briola welcomed their first precious daughter into the world. On February 13th, Suzanne was born.
Most of her memorable childhood was spent in Grand Haven, Michigan where her family moved when she was a toddler. Her parents worked hard to support the family. Her father was a soil conservationist with the federal government, and her mother mostly stayed home to keep the home organized and happy; however, she also worked as a nurse during WWII. Grand Haven was the perfect home for Suzanne, for she began to appreciate the peacefulness of nature very early in her life. Suzanne loved to roam the sand dunes with her childhood dog, Molly. They also looked forward to two annual trips to visit family in West Virgina and Pennsylvania. A few more spontaneous trips were planned on various holidays as well. If all else failed, the family usually built a vacation around their dad's fishing destinations which always proved to be adventurous.
Suzanne experienced almost the first decade of her life as an only child, but her situation changed when she heard the news that she was going to be a big sister. The family welcomed Kathryn who found herself surrounded by what felt like three adults because her sister was an enormous 9 years older. As the girls matured into adults, however, they became much closer.
As a teenager, Suzanne attended Union High School where she had quite a social life. She maintained many of these friendships into adulthood, and she would look forward to meeting up for lunch with her friends from those earlier days. Though she kept a busy social calendar, she was an exceptionally intelligent student and earned straight A's. After receiving her high school diploma, Suzanne went on to attend Grand Rapids Community College for her associate's degree - though she always had a passion to study children's literature.
In the midst of starting her life in the real world, she opened her heart to the idea of love. A double date opportunity presented itself with friends, Jerry and Linda Noble. They arranged for Suzanne and Bill Sarber to come along. There was an immediate attraction because Bill had a "hot car" which definitely appealed to Suzanne. The two dated for about a year while Suzanne worked at a dime store, and Bill worked as a heavy equipment mechanic. When they decided the time was right, they were married at the Justice of the Peace. The newlyweds started their life together in a rented apartment located on Courtney NW in Grand Rapids. Before long, they discovered they were going to enter the adventure of parenthood together. They celebrated the birth of their first daughter, Rebecca, in 1959. Then in 1964, they welcomed their second daughter, Elizabeth. Two years later, in 1966, they proudly purchased their first home as a family which was located at 1824 Stark NW. As the family worked hard to establish a firm foundation, it became apparent that something needed to change.
Suzanne went in a different direction after she and Bill divorced in 1972. This direction meant that she was going to have to work even harder to provide a good life for her girls. She succeeded and actually surpassed the expectation of merely providing, but instead, she was an amazing and inspiring single mother for 11 years. To accomplish this feat, she worked several different jobs and made many sacrifices for her family - proving to her girls that anything you set your mind to is achievable. She eventually obtained a job through the Kent County Prosecutor's office and worked diligently to find promotion all the way to becoming the top administrator in the office. This task required focus and determination, and she never let that interfere with being a mom. Her girls will cherish the memories of playing games in a home filled with laughter or gazing at the always present card table displayed with a puzzle in the works. Her girls would look forward to their trips to Grand Haven in the summer when their mother would rent out a cottage. Suzanne was as involved in their lives as she could be - even participating in the PTA at Kenowa Hills schools. The home had cats for pets too because Suzanne was always willing to help out the strays. As a mother, she was the rock of the family for certain, as she was an incredibly strong and devoted single mother.
Her girls were her first priority always, yet she did allow herself the opportunity for companionship as well. She met Joseph Cichon at Applied Arts, the location of one of her previous jobs. He was the line supervisor and union steward. When she left for the county job, the two began dating. To the relationship, they both brought the gift of family, as he was a father to 7 children. The two decided to focus on raising their children before making the serious commitment of marriage, as that could wait until their families matured. After 9 years of dating, they finally celebrated their love in marriage in 1983.
Just as Suzanne cherished her daughters, she welcomed Joe's children with open arms, and Joe was just as accepting of Suzanne's girls. The couple did a wonderful job with their blended family making sure to provide equal attention to both sides. The blending of 9 children also meant that Suzanne and Joe could look forward to more grandchildren in the future! The family celebrated many happy occasions together, some of which were enjoyed at the cottage at Rainbow Lake during the summers and others (like holidays) were in one of their homes. Suzanne and Joe were happily married for 25 years. Sadly, Joe passed away unexpectedly in 2009 making for a very difficult time in Suzanne's life. With the support and love of her friends and family, Suzanne was able to find the goodness in life again.
Positive times were found in Suzanne's life when she joyfully watched her children and stepchildren bring the gift of grandchildren into the world. She took on the role of a grandmother with the same passion as she did motherhood, as she was very hands-on. She attended many concerts, activities, and sporting events to show her support. Her presence in their lives was large. Because all of her grandchildren relished the magical time of Christmas, without their grandmother, Christmas will never be the same.
When Suzanne had time to enjoy with friends, she always had something to do. She loved to play cards, bowl on leagues, and schedule lunch with her friends. For travel, she experienced many wonderful destinations; California and Florida with her girls and their families, 2 cruises, Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska to name a few. One of her favorite trips was when she and her sister traveled to Italy. When she was closer to home, friends and family could always count on her to make requested birthday dinners. Many of those occasions created memories to last forever.
In her times of solitude, Suzanne loved to be outside. Nature provided her peace, and she found great joy working in her vegetable and flower gardens. Nature had a certain power over her that renewed her spirit, in a sense. She found contentment in just being fully present in the moment, and nature gave her that space.
Not all parts of Suzanne's life were easy. She faced breast cancer head on and became a survivor. Through that struggle, she endured a mastectomy in addition to treatment. Just recently, she had been declared cancer free. Unfortunately, another cancer, unrelated to the other, was found in her brain. Sadly, she succumbed very quickly and passed away on October 30, 2017, at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital.
We will miss Suzanne's spunk for life, her witty sense of humor, and her amazing trivial pursuit knowledge! As we look to one another for comfort in our sadness, we can also look to nature to remind us of her ability to find peace there as well. Suzanne's presence in our lives will be dearly missed.
Suzanne at age 79, passed away on October 30, 2017, at Spectrum Butterworth Hospital. Suzanne was born February 13, 1938, in Falmouth, KY to Robert and Olive (Foreman) Briola. She is preceded in death by her parents; her husbands, Bill Sarber & Joseph Cichon; and stepson, Timothy Cichon. Suzanne loved animals and gardening, was a proud member of MENSA and Central Christian Church, but it was spending time with friends and family that meant the most. She is survived by her daughters, Becky (Dan) Baines of Rockford, Elizabeth (Tracy) Hanrahan of West Olive; stepchildren, Terry (Colleen) Cichon of Ada, Maryann (Bob) Blauwkamp of Casnovia, Carol (Bob) Moleski of Rockford, Richard (Carol) Cichon of Grand Rapids, Don (Karen) Cichon of Belmont, Dave (Bonnie) Cichon of Rockford; grandchildren, Cameron Baines, Alexander Baines, Taylor Sarber, Stacy Hanrahan, Rory Hanrahan, Taylor Hanrahan, Patrick Hanrahan, Megyn Hanrahan; many step grandchildren and step great-grandchildren; and her sister, Kathryn (Patrick) Taylor of Grand Rapids. A funeral service will be held Monday, November 6 at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. Friends may visit with her family Sunday from 3-5 PM and beginning at noon on Monday. Memorials may be made to Humane Society of West Michigan. Please visit Suzanne's personal web page to read more of her life story, leave a memory or condolence at www.lifestorynet.com.