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Portadown girl Suzanne De Groot was full of life, a talented swimmer and dancer who was involved in her church and community

Suzanne De Groot (nee Laverty) was the epitome of kindness. She was caring, entertaining and a pillar of her community.

Suzanne De Groot from Portadown, Co Armagh.
Suzanne De Groot from Portadown, Co Armagh.

A devoted mother, step mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece and granddaughter, Suzanne led a full and active life despite being diagnosed with a serious illness in childhood.

She was born on May 22, 1982 in Craigavon Area Hospital to father George and mother Sandra. She grew up in a loving family of two sisters, Michelle and Tracey and brother Simon and was the youngest girl.

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Suzanne went to Hart Memorial Primary School, Clounagh Junior High and Armagh Southern Regional College. She loved school and, from day one, would have gone seven days a week if it had been open.

Suzanne De Groot from Portadown, Co Armagh.

She was active during her school life. She was on the hockey team in every school she attended and swam in the school galas.

Suzanne began her working life in the Brownstown Post Office - butchery department - as a trainee. She loved working there and always had a smile and was full of chat with the customers.

After working there for two to three years, Suzanne continued with her swimming and into her chosen career as a life guard in Cascades Swimming Pool in Portadown. She loved her job in the pool, particularly interacting with people.

Suzanne was involved in a lot of clubs and organisation’s in her young life. She made friends everywhere she went.

She loved to dance and started in Donna Whitten Dance School at the age of three, staying there for 13-14 years.

She won many trophies and medals in her time and she will always be remembered for Jungle Rock and Charlie Chaplin dances.

Through the Laverty family church, St Columba’s, Suzanne began in the Penguins at the age of three - at Sunday School right up until the age of 13 until she was confirmed.

She loved being involved in church activities. She was always full of life and the leaders and minister were always sure of getting a big hug from her.

Suzanne joined the Star of David Accordion Band at the age of five following in the footsteps of her dad and two sisters. Her band family meant the world to her. She began on the triangle, then learned the accordion. Her dad George said: “She always harped on to the bandmaster, the late Davy McKeown, to let her be the leader and finally he had to give in and let her. She always led the band with a smile.”

Suzanne was also a member of Portadown Swimming Club and the Dolphin Club. From the age of six she competed in a lot of competitions and winning many medals. She continued her love of swimming through to her career as a lifeguard.

Suzanne was involved in St John Ambulance for 23 years. She joined Portadown Cadet Division at the age of 10 and gained her Grand Prior Award, the highest award for a cadet. When she was older she became an Officer in St John. Her dad, two sisters and her brother were all involved in St John Ambulance for many years and devoted their time and commitment to the local community.

Other clubs she was involved with during her childhood were St Mark’s Scouts and the Baptist Youth Club.

Suzanne adored family holidays, particularly trips to Blackpool in her childhood. Her father said: “During the evenings in the hotel Suzanne was always entertaining the guests with her talent of dancing. The guests and staff loved to see her entertaining. We then spent a number of our family holidays in Florida, all together. She loved Florida and in 2011 she got married there.”

She worked as a life guard at Cascades for 19 years but was medically retired due to her ill health.

Her husband Joab said: “Suzanne’s job was her life and she was very proud of everything she achieved. Whilst working at Tannaghmore Gardens Farm she loved having responsibility and was trusted to lock up the farm in the evenings, She also enjoyed driving the farm vehicles to collect food and also enjoyed giving school tours around the farm.”

Suzanne’s illness first started when she was six. She was diagnosed with encephalitis - at the time they thought it might be a brain tumour. She was on medication for a while but otherwise was pretty healthy. Later in life she was diagnosed with epilepsy but that didn’t stop her having a fun active life.

She became ill again in 2015 - only this time it stopped her from working at the place she loved, Cascades.

Over the next number of years her health was to deteriorate. She had frequent hospital admissions and appointments. She would go into hospital for periods of sometimes days and weeks but would always come home again. Throughout her long illness Suzanne never let it get her down. She was always smiling.

Her father said: “She went into hospital on Saturday December 18 on what we all thought was one of her routine admissions but sadly we did not expect what was to follow and she passed away in ICU 2 in Craigavon Hospital on Tuesday, December 28, 2021.

“We have to thank all the staff in A&E, 1 North, 1 South, and especially Consultant Daryl Stewart and all his team who worked tirelessly over Suzanne’s final days in ICU. Their compassion and care was second to none and we will always be so grateful for that. The family are also so thankful to Ian Milne and Sons who looked after Suzanne and the entire family circle in such a caring thoughtful and professional way in our difficult time. Donations in lieu of flowers will be going to the NI Air Ambulance C/O Ian Milne and Sons.

“A big thanks also to Canon Bill Adair for the way he tended the family and helped us through a very difficult time. Thanks also to everyone that called to the house, sent cards, messages and attended Suzanne’s funeral as all of you have helped us through this difficult time.”

Suzanne was a woman so full of life. She was always the life and soul of the party. She touched the hearts of so many people in her young life with her loving smile.

When she was in Hart Memorial PS her teacher sent her for a message but she ended up in the principal’s office. He asked her what he could do for her. She said: “My older sister Tracey is going to London on the school trip but she cries a lot being away and is it ok if I go with her?.”

When they were renovating Cascades Pool and staff were being allocated to other places Suzanne went to work in Tannaghmore Gardens Farm. Her mum and dad gave her a day as she didn’t like getting dirty and was always turned out neat and tidy. But she loved the farm and the animals. On many occasions she would bring young animals home like baby ducks and even, once, a baby pig.

Having finished her day’s work, she got a call later that night to say that a cow was calving. She went to the farm with her sister Tracey and helped deliver the calf. Suzanne had been told if it was a girl it would be named ‘Silverwood Susy’ but it was a boy and she was so disappointed. When she went into work the next day the cow had another calf during the night. It was white and a girl so it was named ‘Silverwood Suzy’. Suzanne was so delighted.

George said: “Suzanne will be deeply missed by the entire family, friends and all who knew her. She will always be remembered as ‘Our Superstar’.”

Her husband Joab said: “Suzanne and I met whilst working in Cascades in 2006. We hit it off straight away and enjoyed travelling together. We backpacked around Australia, Thailand and Singapore. We also visited Florida on a few occasions before getting married in Florida just after Valentine’s Day on February 18, 2011.

“We were delighted on the birth of our daughter Nikhita in April 2012 and settled down to family life. We called ourselves the three Musketeers. Suzanne was amazing and her smile was something special. She was the kindest person ever and would have gone out of her way to help anyone. She was a fantastic mother to Nikhita and step mother to Craig, Ryan and Sophie. She was a devoted wife to me and I can’t express the love we had for each other through good times and bad times.

“During last summer in July we went up to Bloody Bridge in Newcastle. Suzanne was very unsteady on her feet and she said for us to go on ahead. I was having none of it and I carried her up the mountain so she could enjoy the day with us. She was so happy and we had so many things planned for 2022 and her 40th birthday.

“Nikhita and I are heartbroken as is the whole family circle but we will work together as a family unit to bring up Nikhita so her mother Suzanne would be proud. Suzanne wanted the best for Nikhita and got her involved in after school activities, arts and crafts and hockey. She also got her involved with Portadown Dance College doing hip hop, modern and tap dancing. Like her mum she is involved in many groups and goes to speech classes and is a member of JWLOL 42, and attends Edgarstown youth club.”

Suzanne De Groot (nee Laverty), of Lisnisky Walk, Portadown died peacefully in Craigavon Hospital. Suzanne was the treasured wife of Joab, devoted mum of Nikhita, also a beloved daughter of George and Sandra, a cherished sister of Michelle, Tracey and Simon and a much-loved aunt and granddaughter of Billy.

Her funeral service was in St Columba’s Parish Church with committal following in Kernan Cemetery.

The funeral service was conducted by Canon Rev Bill Adair. Suzanne’s sisters Michelle and Tracey helped carry her into the packed church to the song ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

The hymns for the service were ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ and ‘Shine Jesus Shine’.

Suzanne was carried from the church to her favourite song ‘Super Star’. Suzanne was a ‘Super Star’ to everyone who knew her.

“We lost our Super Star,”said her father.