Mother knitted together four generations of family

Lucy Suarez showered them with love and put her family first in her life.

Published July 28, 2006

WELLSWOOD - For some people, living a fulfilled life means a high-profile career, money and fame.

For Lucy Suarez, family members say, it meant being a good wife, mother and grandmother.

Mrs. Suarez lived that life to its fullest. She died of cancer (July 11, 2006) at age 90.

"She was the one who brought us all together, all the generations," said her grandson Shannon Rose. "I remember when I was a kid, we'd all gather at her house. And it was that way at the end too, everyone sitting with her at hospice, people who hadn't seen each other for a long time, all getting together again because of my grandmother."

Mrs. Suarez was born Lucy DiBona and raised in West Tampa. She was just a teenager when she met Raleigh Suarez at a dance at one of the local Italian social clubs.

"He was the love of her life," said their daughter Elaine Diaz. "They were only 20 when they were married, and they stayed in love for the rest of their lives."

Even their grandchildren noticed how much in love Raleigh and Lucy Suarez were.

"In all their years together, he never lost that glow in his eye for her," Rose said. "I guess that's the secret to staying together for that many years."

After their marriage, the couple settled in Wellswood, where they raised their two daughters, Elaine and Shirley Rose.

Raleigh Suarez founded Suarez Housing, which grew into a successful local home-building company.

Mrs. Suarez was the consummate homemaker, mother and host.

"Our door was always open," Diaz said. "She was always in the kitchen, always cooking. She was a typical Italian mother.

"She was an excellent seamstress, and she made all my sister's and my clothes. She had a lot of love for my sister and me, and we always knew how much she loved us."

As her family grew, Mrs. Suarez became a matriarch to four generations. At the time of her death, she had seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

She showered all of them with love, but the whole family knew her first love was her husband.

"Sometimes, in recent years, we would try to get them to move to my house or my sister's, but they wouldn't," Diaz said. "They wanted to be alone together."

In later years, after her husband retired, the Suarezes loved to travel together, especially to Sicily, Italy, where Mrs. Suarez still had relatives.

Raleigh Suarez died about three years ago. Not too long after that, Mrs. Suarez was diagnosed with cancer.

Even her battle with cancer didn't stop Mrs. Suarez from caring for her family.

"She always put her family first, before herself," Rose said. "Even when she was in a lot of pain, she'd always ask, 'How's Shannon?' She was always thinking about her children and her grandchildren."

Family members from several generations, many of whom had moved away from the area, came back to be with Mrs. Suarez as her condition worsened. That seemed to put her at peace, family members said.

"All she wanted was to have her family around her," Diaz said.

"The day before she died, she patted my sister and me on the head, as if she was saying goodbye. She had 90 wonderful years."