Up Close & Personal: Suzanne
As a former journalist and editor, I dislike nothing more than writing about myself. I’m used to asking questions and writing about somebody else. I have a total disdain for the spotlight; it is out of my comfort zone. So, as I sit at my desk, grappling with this text, a little voice in my head keeps banging on about how the “About Us” page is the most important page on a website. Brilliant, let's just ratchet up the pressure another few notches.
I was born in London to an English mother and Dutch father and spent my formative years in New York City. My father, who was Tobs' first cousin, spoke five languages fluently and spoke to me in French from childhood. As a result of his dogged determination, I speak French like a native. His thinking was, "Who else speaks Dutch except the Dutch?" My lack of knowledge in the Dutch language impaired my efforts with this project. That said, I don't believe in coincidences. When I met Willem and he offered to help, I decided it was time to travel down the road to discovery.
This project is the fulfilment of a life-long dream, full stop. Tobs' story left an indelible impact on me as a child. I knew I would ultimately write his story. What I never anticipated was how often the story line would change, sometimes shifting with such frequency that I wondered if we were working alongside ghosts, or if spirits “above” were guiding us. And then there were times I felt suspended midway between the truth and family lore, an uncomfortable place to be.
Whether a result of ghosts or guiding spirits, the research led me on the most unexpected and unforgettable journey of my life and continues to do so. Strangers became dear friends and family whom I never knew existed are now an integral part of my life. I reconnected with old friends who offered sage advice and I found mentors and supporters under the most unusual circumstances. Each and every one of these new-found friends continue guiding us towards our goal of penning the story.
My passion in life is research and I dive headfirst into a project until I am satisfied I’ve unearthed every single detail. At work, colleagues called me “Sherlock” because I always unearthed the impossible, even before the advent of the Internet. Currently, Willem and I are swimming in a tsunami of research documents. Is it ever possible to have too much information? For now, that remains to be seen…
This project became a reality with the love, help, support and guidance of my husband, Peter, and especially my Dutch friend and colleague, Willem Mugge and his family. The website is the result of their dedication and relentless determination to encourage me to start writing this story.
Peter and I live in the suburbs of Philadelphia, USA with our two four-legged "children", West Highland White Terriers called Toby and Tara.