The last time I visited her she was bedridden in her home and asked me if I would pray for her to die. I told her I couldn't do that, just couldn't but did pray with her that God take her into God's heart.
I visited her several times over my years at the Middelsex Cluster Ministry. She was so delightful and full of joy though her life had not been easy. Now she has what she prayed for--she is at rest in the Heart of God.
Nancy Thompson, a journalist, who is also a member of St. James in Higganum, wrote a story about Mary and her husband, Joe, 20 years ago. She sent it to me and gave me permission to put it here.
This is the story. Listen....
LOVE LEAVES ITS LASTING MARK ON A BEECH TREE IN DURHAM: [1N GREATER MIDDLETOWN Edition]
The majestic beech rises straight and true in the dense Durham woods. Nearby, deer tracks run close to a crystal-clear brook. There are no sounds except those of the forest.
For Joseph and Mary Suchanek of the Higganum section of Haddam, the century-old beech is more than a pretty spot in the woods -- it is a living family tree.
Its bark tells the story of two generations of Suchaneks, from the early years of this century to a 55th anniversary celebration today.
Joe Suchanek's grandparents ran a boarding house at their Foothills Road farm in Durham, catering mostly to fellow Czechs from New York City, and it was there that his parents, Mary Hanus and Joseph Suchanek, met in the first decade of this century.
One day in 1911 the young lovers carved their initials and the date in a beech tree on the farm. They married soon after, and young Joe was born in 1915 after the couple returned to New York City, where his father was a policeman.
The couple, with their young son, soon returned to the 400-acre farm to raise turkeys, cows, tobacco and wheat. It wasn't easy to go from police work to farming, but Joseph Suchanek Sr. was willing to try.
"He really was no farmer, but he got to it," his son recalled.
The younger Joe first noticed the tree with his parents' initials when he was a child. He loved to fish in nearby Miller's Pond Brook and often passed the tree as he roamed his family's woods.
As a young man, he courted Mary Cernan, a young woman who had lived in Higganum nearly all her life. "She was kind of the girl next door," Joe said.
They soon fell in love.
Because he had visited the tree often, it seemed natural -- a family tradition, almost -- to take his girlfriend into the woods and add their initials to the smooth bark.
Using his pen knife -- Joe says he has never left home without it -- he carved their initials in a heart and added the date: 9-25-38.
They were married Aug. 12, 1939, and moved to a house on Main Street in Durham, where they lived for 40 years.
The year after their wedding, Joe's family sold the property to a family from New York who wanted it for a summer place.
For more than 50 years, through wars and storms and ordinary, everyday events, the tree grew and its bark stretched, expanding and distorting the initials. Nobody gave much thought to the carvings, and if hunters or hikers noticed the marks, they probably didn't know who the lovers were.
Earlier this year Higganum resident Art Wiknik noticed the tree and its initials while walking through the property that his brother, Jerry, had bought. His family and the Suchaneks had been friends for many years, and when he saw the tree he realized the initials were those of Mary and Joe, and Joe's parents.
Wiknik took photographs of the tree and sent them to the Suchaneks, who were surprised that anyone would be interested in the carvings.
PHOTO 1: COLOR, Corey Lowenstein / Special to The Courant PHOTO 2: COLOR, Paula Bronstein / The Hartford Courant; Caption: PHOTO 1: * Mary Suchanek, 71, and Joseph Suchanek, 79, of Higganum, carved their initials in a beech tree in Durham in 1938 before they were married. It was the same tree where Joseph Suchanek's parents had carved their initials in 1911. PHOTO 2: * Earlier this year Art Wiknik noticed the tree and its initials while walking through the property his brother had bought, and got in touch with the Suchaneks.
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