It was an emotional but happy goodbye celebrated by family, friends and community members at the Evangelical Free Church in Fort St. James.
But it was mostly an opportunity to say thank you to John and Anne Suderman for all that they have done for the community over the last 50 years since arriving in Fort St. James.
Terri Karey, also from the Fort, has seen time and time again all that the Sudermans have done to help anyone and everyone they could over the years.
“They are pillars of this community. This is a couple who really do practise what they preach,” Karey said.
The couple, who have been married 55 years, will be moving to Kelowna, B.C. to be closer to family.
“They are going to be a loss to our community, but such a gain to theirs’,” Karey said.
The Sudermans raised two children in Fort St. James and now have three grandchildren.
Over the years, John was a math teacher and principal at Fort St. James Secondary School.
The couple always enjoyed woodworking, gardening and singing.
But it was their passion for helping and volunteering that impacted so many within the community.
The couple volunteered regularly for such places as the soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels, the food bank, Echo Lake Bible Camp and they visited patients regularly at Stuart Lake Hospital.
“They also helped build this church,” Karey said.
Bruce Spinney, the Pastor at the New Evangelical Church is new to Fort St. James but he is aware of all the Sudermans have done.
“When you come into a new community and you meet these two people, you see all that they have done to keep the church going and strong,” Spinney said.
Jen Hoy-Duncan also attends the church and has known the Sudermans since she was a little girl.
“I’ve known them as a child. They were always serving behind the scenes. They were always looking for new ways to serve.”
So what will the Sudermans miss most about Fort St. James?
“I will miss the scenery and the lake,” John said. “And I’ll miss the people of course.”
Anne couldn’t agree more.
“We’ve made so many wonderful friends over the years. We will miss them.”