From rascal to philanthropist
Wilsonville woman's life turned into an unexpected memoir
Wilsonville area resident Suzy Sivyer is living proof that rambunctious, rapscallion little girls can grow up to be charitable Catholic women of service — God willing.
Born in Portland to a veterinarian father and housewife with a modeling-career-on-the-side mother, Sivyer was a self-described tomboy with a flare for getting into trouble.
In the opening pages of Sivyer's memoir "Ordinary Person — Extraordinary Experiences," she quotes her mother's favorite description of Sivyer in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow quote: "When she was good she was very, very good, but when she was bad she was horrid."
From removing curlers halfway through a perm to jailbreaking a dozen dogs from her father's clinic on a whim, Sivyer's Catholic school education in Portland wasn't able to keep her prim and proper. But the mundane and modest was never of great interest to her. Sivyer craved a life of creation and exploration. With a line of inspiring female relatives who came before her — including Dorothy Hester Stenzel, who was inducted into the Oregon Aviation Hall of Fame — Sivyer knew that she wanted something unique and captivating, leading her to pursue a degree in architecture while paying for her education by being an "in-flight hostess" for Trans World Airlines (TWA).
"People used to ask me, 'If you were to have money or you were to have adventure, what would you pick?'" Sivyer said. "I would pick adventure."
After being rejected three times because she needed to lose "a few inches" around her hips, Sivyer finally set off for TWA training in July of 1968. The training covered the expected flight safety regulations and PA announcements along with grooming and makeup instruction.
From being whisked away on a evening of fun in Las Vegas by the owner of Circus Circus in a gold limousine to being an extra in "The Out-of-Towners" with Jack Lemmon, Sivyer documents her fantastical romp through her career as a flight attendant and her many misadventures along the way to earning her degree in architecture from the University of Washington, in her memoir.
"Everything you could ever want to know about me is in there," Sivyer said, gesturing to her memoir.
So what inspired this launch into laying her life bare on the pages of her memoir? After leading a robust career of volunteering in Wilsonville for the past 30-plus years, Sivyer said that she felt God "winking and whispering" at her to give more of herself and to write down the extraordinary experiences that He has given her over the course of her life.
Around Thanksgiving 2014, Sivyer said that the words "Ordinary Person — Extraordinary Experiences" materialized. It was another two months before pen met paper to start her outline for the memoir. On Jan. 14, 2015, Sivyer started typing and by the next day she was a tenth of the way finished. By April, Sivyer had managed to pack her childhood, her days with TWA, her career, transitioning back to the Portland metro area to be close to family 1976 and her volunteer history in Wilsonville into 206 pages.
"It's a nonfiction that reads like a fiction," Sivyer said. "The whole thing that you see in the book is that God is right there, in a fun way."
As the president of the Friends of the Wilsonville Library along with volunteering at the nonprofit's bookstore Twice Sold Tales for the past 13 years, Sivyer has a unique opportunity to discuss her book with potential readers. Although her book is intended to demonstrate God's generosity and how God is always in control and has a plan, Sivyer says that it's suitable to anyone with an interest in local history and volunteering as well.
Having volunteered over the past 30 years in Wilsonville at Dammasch State Hospital, Through a Child's Eyes at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Friends of The Library, the Arts and Culture Council and as a ballroom dance instructor for Wilsonville students and seniors along with a handful of other positions, including as the director and emcee of the Wilsonville parade celebrating Oregon's 150th birthday, there are few positions Sivyer hasn't filled.
"I never go to these meetings intending to volunteer," she said. "But once I start, I can't give anything up."
Thus far, Sivyer's connections in the community have been paying off and says that the book is turning a profit — all of which will be distributed equally between De La Salle North Catholic High School, Holy Cross Catholic School, Maryville Nursing Home, St. Cyril Catholic Church and the Wilsonville Friends of The Library. Sivyer hopes that people will buy and connect with her book, not only for themselves but also to benefit the profit recipients. Near the end of December, Sivyer was able to write a $1,000 check to one of her beneficiaries, Maryville Nursing Home.
"The book is the best bang for your buck and you might come away with a whole new lease on life," Sivyer said.