On January 17th, Sue peacefully fell asleep and left behind the pain and suffering she has endured the last 5 years. As her body had been ravaged since her cancer diagnosis in April of 2019, she continued to live her life in the face of conditions that would have stopped others who are not so stubborn. With strength and grace no one knew she had, she defied the predictions of most experts to live far longer than expected. With this gift of extra time-"its all gravy", as she would say- she got to live back down in her later in life adopted home of St. Petersburg, Florida, in Oregon with her daughter, summers back home in Granby where she could see old friends and family, and finally with her son in Virginia where she spent her final chapter. All the while she had her faithful dog Nemo, who while seemingly physically connected to her lap was most certainly a spiritual companion on her journey.
Born in Windsor, CT on Dec 18, 1971, she was extremely bright, artistically talented and strong willed from the start. She skipped the 2nd grade but school was never really her thing. She found great enjoyment in books, and there were years we didn't see her face as it was buried in Watership Down or Clan of the Cave Bear. Her pencil doodles were detailed and intricate.
One of Sue's favorite places was the rocky shore of Maine, where growing up she was fortunate to spend weeks every summer at the seaside cottage of her Aunt Thelma and Uncle Ray. There she spent days climbing on the rocks where no small tidal pool went unexplored. This love of the ocean and nature never left her, as a few years ago she got the chance to spend a week in Cape Cod. There she got to play in the salt flats, using her bare hands to dig up whatever creature she could hold and let ooze between her fingers. That was Sue in her element.
Upon moving to Granby during elementary school, she was at home surrounded by the fields and barns in the neighborhood. There was never a stray board laying around that she wouldn't flip over in the hope of finding a snake. Being fearless and curious, she became an expert at catching them for further study. This inspired her as throughout her life she loved anything scaly and slithery, bringing home pets ranging from a boa constrictor to a 12 ft long albino Burmese python.
Aside from reptiles, she became heavily involved in 4-H where she amassed a huge collection of trophies and blue ribbons for her work with rabbits and chickens. However, it was her relationship with horses that was truly special. She spent many years working at the Strain family horse farm, where her ability to rapidly tame rambunctious horses was on the level of a Horse Whisperer. Growing up she also had horses of her own with whom she forged deep bonds. When not in school she would be at the barn spending time with them, riding them, or even finding peace in cleaning their stalls. It was her happy place. And if the cows happened to get loose, it was no problem as she would jump bareback on her horse and round them up like only a true cowgirl could.
After high school Sue married and had her children Alex and Caitlin. She became a member of the Mormon Church, which helped provide direction and strength for the rest of her life. Once she had done her job and raised her kids to become the kind and caring humans they are, she went to Florida and enrolled in nursing school. Finishing 2nd in her class, she chose to work in a psych ward where she could offer her help and compassion to those in need. In St. Pete, she found a place to live that was across the street from the beach and had a canal in the backyard. She was thrilled to have the experience of walking out her back door to see manatees lounging in the canal! While living there she made many new friends and had the time of her life. A highlight was volunteering at a Raptor Rehab facility, where in typical Sue fashion she developed immediate relationships with the injured birds of prey. She described the power in the eyes of a bald eagle that was perched on her arm, or the wonder of tiny owls that she held in her hands. We are fortunate to have pictures of these experiences!
After her diagnosis, she was blessed to have her uncle Hal Chase and his wife Jill, also a nurse, living in the area. With her being so far away, it was very reassuring to have people to care for her, even opening up their home to her when she was physically unable to care for herself. The family will always be thankful for their love and the long list of everything they did for her and us.
Thanks go out to her CT oncologist, Dr. Sope Olugbile and the staff at the Harry Jack Gray Cancer centers in Hartford and Avon. Dr O believed in her from the start, and genuinely cared about her as a person as well as a patient. He and the staff who helped her through the long hours of treatments deserve to be recognized.
She is survived by her son Alex Bentley and his wife Amanda of Virginia, her daughter Caitlin Hunsacker and husband Chris of Oregon, her father Ray Huk and his wife Lulu of Granby, and her mother Cindy Huk and her companion Luther Lee, of Ellington.
Special thanks to her brother Tim Huk and his wife Sarah of Canton, her uncle Hal Chase and his wife Jill, of St. Petersburg, FL and her aunt Nancy & Ken Hallberg of East Hampton. She also leaves behind many aunts, uncles and cousins scattered up and down the east coast, as well as her young Italian Greyhound Razzy, who provided support late in life and was there to comfort her as she took her final breath. She was predeceased by her Grandma Mary Huk of Windsor and her grandparents Harold and Gladys Chase of West Suffield, CT.
Sue was always concerned that Nemo would miss her terribly when she was gone. He passed a short time ago, and it is not strange to think that this gave her permission to head on to her next phase as well. Her connection with animals went that deep. Although sad she is no longer on this Earth, her suffering is over and there is a sense of peace considering the pain in which she has been living.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Birds of Prey program at Friends of the Largo Nature Parks by visiting natureparkfriends.org
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Sue did not want people to mourn per se, and recently made it clear that she was very much at peace. She would prefer all to think of a nice memory, laugh, and listen to the music play. She loved her cheesy 80s hair bands, especially Def Leppard, so crank up the volume, sing along and celebrate her life!
Make a donation to one of the following charities in remembrance of Susan Bentley Huk Messenger