Susie Alphonse was born June 22, 1928 in Williams Lake, B.C.
She was the eldest of nine children born to Casimir and Maria Bob.
Her father, Casimir, was the son of Bob and Maggie Anaham.
Bob Anaham was the son of Chief Anaham, the founder of Anaham Reserve and its namesake. Susie recognized the significance of her heritage and was honoured to be part of the Hereditary Leadership.
When her nephew was elected chief of Tl’etinqox, she kept track of his progress through TV, newspaper articles and frequent updates from family.
On Feb. 19, 1953 Susie married Raphael Alphonse. They raised seven children and their first granddaughter. Raphael and Susie spent many years at the homestead and firmly encouraged the importance of education. Although she had not received a formal certificate or degree, Susie helped many community members write and send letters to loved ones in Coqualeetza Hospital. People who could not write would speak in Chilcotin and she would transcribe their words into written English.
Susie valued the type of education we have today, yet enjoyed sharing her knowledge with family and friends.
Susie had a strong knowledge and passion for the traditional ways of Tsilhqot’in life. From making birch bark and baby baskets, dip nets and hides, gathering medicine, hunting, fishing, trapping, or sharing stories of her family and Tsilhqot’in history, she was not an idle person.
One time, she began a mini-business venture. She prepared moose hides to make moccasins, gloves, vests and beaded jewelry to sell at local shops in Williams Lake and Prince George. Susie had regular customers and it’s been said that her crafts reached as far as Germany. Regarded for her skillfulness with sewing and embroidery, Susie shared her talent by creating and designing quilted blankets, western attire for rodeo, and vestments for the local oblates of the church.
Some of her family or friends may recall the days when Susie mastered the art of raking with a horse-drawn rake, a difficult task that demanded agility and courage.
Susie never shied away from ranch chores. She would work and ride alongside Raphael and other cowboys, chasing cattle, branding, haying, fencing, or whatever needed to be done to keep the work day running smoothly and efficiently.
Each day started with Susie cooking breakfast for the family and crew while getting a head-start preparing lunch and snacks for the day. Be mindful too that in those days there was no use for modern-day haying machinery as horse-drawn wagon and manpower were efficient enough to get the jobs done. Hitching up the team of horses and heading out to the fields to cut, rake and haul hay were routine, sometimes for several, months at a time.
After a full and busy day, Susie would prepare dinner then tend to household chores. Laundry, for instance, was done by packing water and scrubbing clothes in a basin over a scrub board.
This was a huge task in itself as she raised her children and others during the days of no electricity. A devoted and helpful member of family and community, she was definitely no stranger to hard work.
During the winter months, Susie and Raphael moved to various cabins between Anaham and Rocky Point to feed cattle and trap for game.
Sometimes, they would ride in –60 C weather.
No matter what the weather condition or circumstance, Rocky Point was a special place to Susie and she loved to spend time there.
Susie had a strong knowledge of the traditional land and back roads. During one hunting expedition the hunters got lost and Susie guided them safely home after spending the night in the cab of the pickup.
She was still hunting and fishing to provide for the family because these were the things she loved to do. This past summer, she insisted on helping to cut and dry salmon and moose meat.
Susie naturally kept up with the cowboys and crew, proudly making use of the saddle Raphael had bought her which she still has to this day.
She enjoyed round-up time and occasionally talked about when her sons and nephews rode with her. A fond memory for some was when Susie would “out-shoot” the boys in squirrel hunting competition. Her eyes lit up as she reminisced about the days of ranching, culture and traditions and, of course, family.
Many will remember her as a warm and welcoming host. She was prepared to lend a hand to someone in need or invite you into her home for coffee, tea or a fresh meal and goodies. No one ever left hungry.
Instead, many would testify that a visit with Susie often left them feeling full from a great meal and lighter and more joyful because of her kind and gentle spirit.
Susie took great pride in whatever tasks or jobs she had. In 1969, she and Raphael became the janitors at Anaham School until they retired in 1986.
There was no retirement for this grand lady; she continued on at home making crafts and enjoying her hobbies.
Supportive of this in years before, Raphael bought her a sewing machine in 1958.
Susie loved to share that Raphael brought it to her in Rocky Point by horseback.
An active volunteer in the community, particularly the church, Susie assisted in fundraising with Julianna and Celina for many church events.
A devoted Catholic, she was a confirmed Eucharistic minister and attended prayer meetings and gatherings in Lac St. Anne, Cache Creek, Kamloops, Prince George, Lejac and Fountain Lake. One of the greatest highlights for Susie was seeing Pope John Paul 11 in Vancouver and Port Simpson. Susie was very thoughtful — praying and lighting candles for people in need, including perfect strangers half the time.
Most who know her best will testify that they have never known anyone to pray as much as Susie.
Holiday seasons, especially Christmas and Easter, were most special to her. It was mandatory that whatever grandchildren were visiting had to attend at least one holiday church service. Equally important was ensuring a huge dinner would follow for all her family and friends to enjoy.
The strong and gracious lady she was, Susie faced her health problems with courage and faith.
Although she preferred to be at home, Susie left us surrounded by family at Cariboo Memorial Hospital on Nov. 26, 2011.
It is hard to let her go, but we are all blessed to have been part of her journey.
Susie is survived by her children Florence (Raymond Stump), Bella; Faye (Anthony Chelsea); Karen (Herbie Jim); Melvin (Roseline Harry); twins Carla (Michael Wynne) and Carl. She is also survived by many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Mom, you are no longer suffering and are now with your loved ones. We will carry on the best way we can by remembering the many teachings you have given us. We love you mom. Go with God.