by Tiffany Fesenmaier, Membership Coordinator

During my first week at Voyager Village, I remember hearing this voice in the hallways outside the POA office, over and over, that was so distinctive and every time I looked up to see who it was, the person was gone. A sweet, higher pitch, almost loving voice that you just had to know who it belonged to.

About a month went by without hearing my mysterious stranger, and I had forgotten about it. During that time the staff here kept talking about this woman who had fallen ill and was in the hospital. They were all so worried about her, but I had no idea who she was. Then, one day, the voice was back saying “hello” in the doorway of the POA office. I lifted my head up immediately, and there stood this sweet blonde, brown eyed woman and I finally put a face with the voice. The girls in the POA office jumped up immediately to greet her and welcomed her back with big hugs. Her smile was bright, and the voice matched exactly who I was seeing.

Her name is Suzie Daley, and she is the recipient of the Above and Beyond award here at Voyager Village.

Born In South St. Paul, she was raised with two sisters, one older and one younger. She attended school in Cottage Grove. She was an avid swimmer and competed all through high school, attending state and winning. During high school she was also a manager for the boy’s swim team. Suzie said, “I was always happiest in the water than on land, I just love the water and still do to this day.”

One day, after high school, she was hanging out with a couple of her guy friends, who were going to the recruiting office for the Marines. They talked about all the different challenges that were involved and how hard the Marines were, to which Suzie replied each time:

“I can do that.”

The guys laughed and dared her to join, and she was not turning down that dare. She signed up but was only 17 so she needed her parent’s permission, and they were not happy about this at all. Finally, after much discussion they agreed, and she said it was the best decision she ever made. She was in the Marines for 6 years. While in the Marines she also volunteered for search and rescue. They needed “jumpers” so of course she volunteered.

“They created in me so much of who I am today,” Suzie said. “They tear you down and then build you back up so you can learn to face the world head on.”

Her working career brought her to many different job opportunities, but she has the best memories of working at Land O Lakes, because this is where she met the love of her life: JD. While she told me the encounter of meeting her husband her face lit up as she fondly spoke of him.

“I opened a door and hit him by accident and said “oops” and kept walking.”

He was smitten with her immediately, unbeknownst to her. A friend spoke to her about setting her up with someone that worked there, and her response was, “As long as it not that idiot I hit with the door the other day.”

So began the happiest years of her life. Together for 26 years, married for 25, they had a wonderful life together, traveling and taking on new adventures. She said that JD nailed everything he did in his life, whether it was sports or day to day operations.

In 2015, JD fell ill. Doctors kept telling them that it was just the flu. JD passed rather suddenly shortly after and Suzie demanded an autopsy. It was found that JD was suffering from Lyme carditis. She was adamant that we talk about this. Lyme carditis occurs when Lyme disease bacteria enter the tissues of the heart. This can interfere with the normal movement of electrical signals from the heart’s upper to lower chambers, a process that coordinates the beating of the heart. The result is something physicians call “heart block,” which can vary in degree and change rapidly. Lyme carditis occurs in approximately one out of every hundred Lyme disease cases reported to CDC. But she wants you to know more importantly that between 1985 and 2019, only eleven cases of fatal Lyme carditis were reported worldwide. It can be treated but it is often overlooked, and she really wants people that are feeling sick with flu symptoms to always be checked for Lyme disease because they have similar symptoms and can often be missed.

Suzie had a place at VV and after JD passed away, she moved here full time. At Voyager, she feels the closest to JD and can see him everywhere. She began working for VV in 2017 for the Golf Shop doing the Bev Cart. She began a great working relationship with Ryan and then started working in the golf shop as well. “Ryan makes you laugh and leaves you in stitches every day,” she grinned.

From there she started working for Steve Johnson in the maintenance department with the grounds crew. “I adore that man, sometimes more as a friend then a boss.” To her, the grounds crew is “like working with older brothers.”

Suzie also works with Betty and the trails committee, grooming the trails. Suzie said, “When by Tiffany Fesenmaier, Membership Coordinator Betty comes to you and says you are doing something you just do it”! She began working alongside Dave Swanson and the two of them coordinate all grooming for the trails.

The other part of Suzie that most of us might not know is her love for all animals. She has a big heart for dogs that are surrendered due to being old or have medical needs and became a foster/rescue home for these animals. To date she has taken in 186 dogs since she began this journey.

Today she is settled into her new home and is naming the deer that come visit her, loving the bunnies, reading 3 different books, enjoying a good glass of sweet red wine or craft beer, and sitting down by her firepit. She said she has found her forever home here at Voyager and loves being a part of this community. When I asked her what she would like to be remembered for, she smiled and said with her sweet voice and beautiful smile, “Just being a nice person.”

Thank you, Suzie, for all that you do to make VV a great place to live, work and making us shine. You are truly a treasure to many here and we appreciate all that you give and do to make others feel like they are welcomed here and part of our community!