When word first came to Father Ed Dover that, at the age of 38, his devout parishoner Sue Savona died unexpectedly a week shy of Christmas, the priest's first thought was, "Sweet Jesus, the children.''
On Wednesday, during a standing-room only memorial service at in Montrose, Dover looked at Savona's nine children, who range in age from 17 years to 6 weeks, and told the siblings that the light their mom carried inside her, they now carry on for her.
"Your mom was a gift to the world. She had a purpose and a plan and you were all part of that purpose,'' Dover said, speaking directly to their flushed faces.
"You are all gifts to each other - gifts from God,'' he said.
A graduate of and former employee at , Savona's death Dec. 18 sent a shudder through the community.
Savona, her husband of 17 years, Gary and their family were driving en route to her hometown of Green Bay, WI, to spend Christmas with her family. The Savonas were eager to show off new daughter, Chloe, to her grandma. During the trip, Savona fell very ill and had emergency surgery in Tulsa, OK, family member Ann Boettcher told Patch.
There, doctors discovered she had colon cancer. Savona died from complications during surgery.
She didn’t even know she had [cancer]...Nobody had a clue,'' Boettcher said.
Gary, who met his wife in 1994 while working at JPL, described Savona as "all smiles,'' a highly intelligent woman with a bright, shining nature. She was a skillful artist, a creative writer, fluent in Spanish and always helping the kids with their homework, he said during the eulogy.
"We have so many blessings with these children,'' he said, his voice trailing off. "Always be assured that your babies will be loved and cared for as long as I live.''
And then, a moment of levity.
Looking at his somber progeny, Savona added that as a family they must go on, especially with the "mounds of laundry'' piling up.
Paul Savona, Gary's brother, told the children that their mom bequeathed three gifts to each other them: the gift of love, her affinity for adventure and her solid Catholic faith. And despite how confused they are about why Mom is suddenly gone, Paul pointed out that like Grandma's house, a special, happy place that they all like to visit, Mom's new special, fun place is heaven.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Sue Savona Memorial Trust Fund, account number: 02237-76539 at , 2320 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, California 91020. Online condolences may be expressed at www.lyndahl.com.
Holy Redeemer Catholic Church has registered the family for an online meal delivery service. To contribute, view the calendar and sign up for a day to cook for the family on this website.