Susan Lazzar Cooper Johnson demonstrates basket weaving

‘Grandma Sue’ was beloved by all who met her

Growing up, Susan would go out in a canoe with her mother, gathering seafood along the shores.

She was beloved by us all, this woman who was a daughter of a hereditary T’Sou-ke chief, whose life had begun alongside the Sooke River, had included residential school at Kuper Island, raising a family both in Sooke and Washington state, demonstrating and teaching of her crafts, who saw her eldest son Jim serve many years as chief of the T’Sou-ke – this was a woman whose foremost attribute was her kindly, gentle and generous nature.

Born Susan Lazzar in 1910, she was the 13th child of Annie Jones of the Pacheedaht and Andrew Lazzar, who became chief of the T’Soukes.

Growing up on Sooke Reserve No 1, she also had the benefit of being close to her grandfather, Chief Louis Lazzar and her grandmother Mary.

Several of her siblings had their lives cut short by measles and tuberculosis, but Susan had the good fortune to be blessed with a long life and sunny disposition.

Her elder sister Ida Lazzar Planes, who also lived a long life in Sooke was well-known in the community as well.

As a young woman Susan married George Cooper of a prominent Songhees family, but it turned out that she raised her son Jim Cooper here in Sooke.

As Jim Cooper and I were in the same class at Sooke Superior School, he used to get a kick out of dipping my blond braids into an inkwell, as he liked to remind me with a chuckle when we worked together many years later.

Growing up, Susan would go out in a canoe with her mother, gathering seafood along the shores. She helped with berry picking and gathering delicacies like salmonberry shoots, and learned to weave baskets.

She recalled that after the salmon was smoked for the winter, they would start on the baskets, and would stockpile as many as possible to take to market, often in Washington state.

The family would go on hop-picking and berry picking trips to the Yakima and Puyallup valleys, where they would trade their woven baskets and mats.

Her mother had taught her to cut slender branches of ocean spray for use as knitting needles, so knitting sweaters was added to her skills, which included digging clams and gutting fish.  She married fisherman Webster Johnson in Neah Bay, raising Gerald, Annabelle and Nicholas before coming back to her home roots in the 1970s.

When I got to know her well, she was a wonderful contributor to the museum, and some of her fine crafts remain on display. While two sons and a daughter have passed on, Grandma Sue would be delighted to know that son Gerald (Gerry Lazzar) who has now made Sooke his home as well, has become a well-known figure.

This photo, showing her demonstrating basket weaving on the museum lawn in the 1980s, was taken by Bill Turner. A booklet describing her life, produced by Grandma Sue and her friend Kathy Johannesson, can be found at the museum. When she passed on in 1997, hundreds of friends joined the procession which escorted her coffin to join her forebears under the spreading leafy maple boughs at the Lazzar cemetery.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

 

Just Posted

Saanich police are seeking suspect in sexual assault report

Incident happened early Saturday morning near Rudd Park

Saanich to hear update on regional sewage treatment plant

Likely subjects of presentation include fate of trees along Grange Road, costs

Man dies after fall from Johnson Street Bridge

Man climbed railing of the Johnson Street Bridge, lost his balance and fell into the water below

VicPD notify public of sexual assault with weapon in Esquimalt

Officers ask residents to be vigilant while investigation continues

Local fundraising initiative addresses tampon recall

Period Posse checking donations during 10-day campaign

REPLAY: B.C’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

B.C. VIEWS: Andrew Wilkinson on taxes, ICBC and union changes

Opposition leader sees unpredictable year ahead in 2019

5 tips for self-care, mental wellness this holiday season

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions urging British Columbians to prioritize self care through festive season

Most Read