Suzan (Chodanickova) Vayda (1922 - 2017)

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Suzan Vayda, 95

FALMOUTH - If you've never been offered a glass of slivovitz, then you've never met Suzan Vayda who passed away on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017.

Her Slovak Spirit is carried on by her three children and three grandchildren in Maine, nieces and nephews in Great Britain, Slovakia, New Jersey, and Portland, Oregon. Suzan has an extended family of relations and friends from every walk of life.

We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Suzan during her 95 years, among them: never throw away anything, and save everything. Build stockpiles of paper plates and napkins, expired cans and boxes of food just in case an army should land on your doorstep to be fed. Serve everyone who enters your home a glass of slivovitz, or scotch before they hit the road.

Tell everyone you meet that walking is what keeps you alive, and they should do more of it. When you can no longer care for your dear Siamese cat, find pets who belong to others in order to feed them treats, and be sure to give them helpful advice on how to care for them. In lieu of having your own living pet, indulge your own surrogate "pet" parakeet to talk to and care for, as well as multiple cuckoo clocks that never did tell the time that well but certainly could drive others crazy with their incessant cuckoos.

Remind your children and grandchildren that they are beautiful and intelligent and that you worry about them all the time because you love them, not just because they chose a hair color or wear a piece of clothing that you believe diminishes their beauty. Tell your friends how very proud you are of your children and grandchildren because they are such hard workers.

Cook and serve the delicious Slovak food to family and friends until your hands become crippled with arthritis, then have your children learn how to make the same dishes for the holidays: haluski (cabbage or cottage cheese with potato noodles); pierogi; halupki (stuffed cabbage); pagach (cabbage pizza); sauerkraut and kielbasa; garlic, honey and unleavened bread before Christmas Eve dinner; apple strudel (your daughter still has not mastered this one); poppy seed and walnut rolls; babka; and roszke (cream cheese crescent cookies with walnuts).

Above all, Suzan was loved by most everyone who met her. She touched your heart, tickled your funny bone, or maybe made you say "huh?"

Suzan was born in Husak, Czechoslovakia, on April 15, 1922, to Josef and Anna (nee Holindova) Chodanickova. She was the eldest of three daughters, Anna (nee Falisova), and Maria (nee Fedackova), who predeceased her. Suzan was sent alone by her parents to travel to the United States by ship in order to escape World War II in 1938. She lived with her maternal aunt and uncle, John and Mary Firka, in Linden, N.J. Suzan had hoped to attend school; however, she had to work and found employment with Singer Sewing Machine.

After the war, Suzan married John Vayda, a fellow Slovak immigrant and Army veteran, in 1946, and they moved from Linden to Elizabeth, N.J. Their three children, Robert, Susan and Joseph, were born and raised in Elizabeth, attending public school, college and universities, all three receiving graduate school educations.

Family and education were everything to Suzan and John. All three children were expected to learn a musical instrument (piano) and not only take weekly lessons during the school year, but also twice a week in the summers. John worked on the assembly line for General Motors in Linden until his early retirement due to a stroke and heart attack in his 50s. Family vacations consisted of going on day trips to the Jersey shore, namely Metedeconk Bay, where they barbecued, and took home baskets of crabs that son Bob caught.

Spending Sundays meant mornings in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Sunday dinner, visits with John's siblings, nieces and nephews rounded out the extent of extracurricular activities for the Vayda family. Visits with neighbors were regular institutions: the Fabers, the Osifs, the Shermans, the Radowskys, the Germanskys, the Spreitzers, the Teshus, Mrs. Popko, and Mrs. Kalinger, to name a few.

Suzan and John went out to dinner once year on their anniversary, accompanied by all three children. Chinese food was the Vayda family's delight, and it continued to be one of Suzan's favorite foods throughout her life, which her children and grandchildren can attest to (China Rose Buffet!).

After 40 years, Suzan and John left New Jersey for Brunswick in 1986 to be close to their daughter and son, Susan and Joe. Three grandchildren followed, and Suzan and John were never happier than to host their family for holiday and birthday dinners. They loved Maine, and Suzan especially loved her very special neighborhood friends, Nicki, Melon, Mark, Wanda, Joe and Marian, attending Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, spending time in her yard, raking leaves, shoveling snow, caring for her dogs and cats, and walking five miles a day.

After John died in 2001, Suzan began to slow down herself. She never wanted to leave her home, but a knee replacement necessitated a move to Thornton Oaks where she lived for 11 years until her 95th birthday. There her infamous five-mile walk dwindled to three miles (more or less)! Independent ambulation transitioned to cane, then walker.

All the while, Suzan continued to make new friends, and while she may not have been able to remember your name, she always remembered your face. Her smile and laugh were her trademark connection to everyone who met her. Son Bob retired to live in Maine, and Suzan's family was once again complete. Old family friends, Stephanie and John Lichatz and daughters, visited Suzan regularly.

As Suzan's health declined over the last four years, her will to live remained strong. Her medical team was more than just professionals; they were friends and extended family members. The Vayda family was so very fortunate to have the expert care and compassion provided by a number of health care providers and CHANS. Heartfelt thanks to the very special Dr. Sarah Davis; Michele Marchildon, PA-C; Dr. Mirle Kellett; and Dr. Lloyd Van Lunen.

In April of this year Suzan's, health necessitated a move to Foreside Harbor Assisted Living in Falmouth. The last months of Suzan's life were stressful and challenging on many levels. For this formidable woman -- who taught herself how to read and write English (phonetically) -- was one of the most independent and stubborn women her children and friends have ever met, and aging was not accomplished gracefully, but with steadfast determination to remain independent and drive her children, and at times her caregivers, to drink that slivovitz 'round the clock.

Suzan's children and grandchildren wish to most sincerely thank the staff at Thornton Oaks, Laurie Davis, Linda Adams and Sherry, Foreside Harbor (especially you, Lily, Emily and Cindy), and Falmouth by the Sea. Finally, Suzan's overall health and wellbeing, as well as that of her children, was most lovingly supported by the staff with Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care. Stacey, Marie, Dawn and Kathy: your friendship, genuine caring and connection, love, respect and professionalism are what gave Suzan happiness (most of the time), the ability to live her life on her own terms (most of the time), and dignity (all of the time). As they say in Slovak, "Na zdravie" ("To your health, and God bless you").

Suzan is survived by her children and grandchildren: Bob; Susan (husband Erik Greven, son Erek Gaines); Joe (children Natasha McDevitt and Alexandra); grandson-in-law Jimmy McDevitt, nieces Zuzana Matejovska (sons Peter Matejovsky and Pavol Matejovsky), Maria Ogurcakova (daughter Miroslava Ogurcakova), Joan Johnson (children and grandchildren), Chris Trainor (children and grandchildren), Annie Keating (daughters), cousins Richard and Barb Fedoush (daughter, Susan), and Siamese cat, Mishka.

Suzan is reunited with her husband of 55 years, John Vayda; and also predeceased by her parents and two sisters, sister-in-law (Anna Chencharick), and brother-in-law and wife (Andy and Flo Vayda).

Friends (and strangers she would love to have met) can attend her funeral with Suzan's family at the Brackett Funeral Home on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017, at 11 a.m. Burial will occur at 1 p.m., at the Blanchard Cemetery, in Falmouth, and a reception will be held at 3 p.m. at Thornton Oaks in Brunswick.

In lieu of flowers and in Suzan's memory, donations may be made to:
Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care
23 Spring Street
Scarborough, ME 04074
Coastal Humane Society
30 Range Road
Brunswick, ME 04011

Na zdravie!

Funeral Home
Brackett Funeral Home
29 Federal St
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 725-5511
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on Aug. 6, 2017
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