Suzanne West Guy, after a 15-year valiant battle, peacefully succumbed to the ravages of Parkinson’s disease in her home in Norfolk on Friday, Dec. 20 at 5 a.m. She leaves behind her a saddened professional community, beloved family members, and many devoted friends, whose lives she indelibly enriched.
Born in Roanoke, on Nov. 22, 1941, Suzanne Penn West was the oldest child of Francis Thornton West and Nina Penn Moir West. Preceding her in death, in addition to her parents, was her husband of 48 years, Louis Lee Guy Jr.
Her first love was the piano. When Suzanne was 10 years old, she began taking piano lessons with Mary Kirk in the small town of Martinsville, where she spent her formative years. Graduating from Martinsville High School in 1960, she entered Agnes Scott College where she truly dedicated herself to her craft, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Piano Performance in 1964.
Suzanne began teaching piano lessons in 1966 in Salisbury, Maryland in the first home she shared with her husband, Louis, when the first of her three sons was only a baby. Thus, began the career that has changed the lives of countless music lovers, inspiring students, teachers, and musicians in the United States and beyond.
Early in her career, Suzanne dreamed of writing a book, and, as a talented and successful author, has more than fulfilled her aspirations. Her first book, If…You Would Add Beauty to the World, is self-published and into its fourth printing. She collaborated with Donna Lacy to author and publish two books for children, The Music Box: The Story of Cristofori and The Orchestra, The Orchestra!, receiving several awards and commendations.
JoAnn Falletta, Music Director of the Virginia Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic, said of Suzanne, “If there is an angel of music in Virginia, it surely must be pianist and teacher, Suzanne Guy. This extraordinary woman has fostered a love of music in countless people of all ages with wit, gentleness, and profound wisdom.”
Surviving Suzanne are her three sons, James Thornton Guy and his wife Nicole, Louis Lee Guy III and his wife Lynne, and Francis West Guy, as well as two adored grandchildren, Alexa Suzanne Guy and James Schambeau Guy. In addition, she leaves a brother, Francis Thornton West Jr. and his wife, Katherine, and two sisters, Nina West Guy and her husband Pete, and Wysor West Gearhart and her husband William. Also surviving her are seven nieces and nephews, Lowery Guy Van Buskirk, Nina Penn Guy Smith, Katherine Finley West, Francis Thornton West III, Suzanne West Clark, William Chandler Gearhart, and Bentley Wysor Gearhart Dorn. She also leaves 11 great-nieces and -nephews, Peter Walsh Van Buskirk, Grace Lowery Van Buskirk, Jackson Garland Smith, Nina Moir Smith, Francis Thornton West IV, Charlotte Finley West, John Harold West, Katherine Finley Clark, Thomas Penn Clark, Paul Lee Dorn III, and, finally, Taylor Wells Gearhart, who has just joined her in heaven.
The family thanks Norvelle Burke, Diane Grant, Pearl Moore and Katina Jordan for their kindness and loving care to Suzanne during the latter stages of her disease and for easing her final days.
A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk, conducted by the Rev. Scott Hennessey at 12 noon Jan. 4, followed by a reception at Harbor’s Edge. A private burial will precede the service at Elmwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 201 St. Paul’s Blvd., Norfolk, 23510, Michael J. Fox Foundation, P.O. Box 4777, New York, N.Y. 10263-4777, Heartland Hospice, 5041 Corporate Woods Drive, Ste. 200, Virginia Beach, Va. 23432.