Faces in the Crowd: Suzie Nowland

May 9, 2019

By Aaron Michell

I like the way you walk. I like the way you talk. Oh, Suzie Q.

Suzie Nowland, the daughter of Ed and Carmoneta Nowland, was actually named after the 1957 Dale Hawkins hit song that would later be made famous by the Rolling Stones and CCR.

So she has a unique name. And she has an even more unique story.
Growing up as one of 15 siblings in the Nowland household, Suzie’s story is all about family.

Suzie with her daughter Kali.

Taking care of each other; looking out for one another; being strong. Those are the values that she grew up with, and the values she carries with her today. Because to Suzie, nothing’s more important than family.
These days, she continues to pass those values on to her kids: Kali, Austin, and Britton.

A 1981 graduate of Marion High School, Suzie has worked a number of odd jobs over the years: From the railroad, to the fields; from the factories, to the jail house. She’s always done what was needed to make a living. But family has always come first.

These days, Suzie spends much of her time “flying by the seat of her pants,” as she describes it. When someone needs something, they can count on her to be there to help them out. If you need help, and you ask her what her plans are, there’s a good chance she may respond: ‘What are my plans?’
We caught up with Suzie recently where we learned what she’s all about. In a word: Family. But we learned so much more than that. We learned that Suzie Q Nowland is more than just another face in the crowd.

MP: Where did you grow up?
Suzie: Five and a half miles southeast, on the corner of 17 Mile and Fifth Ave.

MP: And you’ve always been a Nowland, right? Never been married?
Suzie: Never been married. It’s funny, I never wanted to be married. All little kids have the dream of being married, and playing with barbies. I don’t think I ever had a barbie doll. I’d always been a tom boy and would always run with my dad and brothers. I’m not against it, it’s just something I don’t see doing.

MP: What were things like growing up in the Nowland family?
Suzie: Great. My mom had 15 children, so there was always a slew of us. And Ashby’s lived next door, and they had 12, and then the other Ashby’s were right there. So every night we’d pick somebody’s house and it was the normal kids [games] like Red Rover.

MP: What was that like, with 15 kids?
Suzie: Some of them were grown and gone, but then we always had cousins who’d live with us. My mom run just kind of an orphanage or something – I don’t know what that woman was thinking! After about six kids, I would’ve taken a butter knife and cut my ovaries out! There ain’t no way.

MP: You graduated in ’81. What kept you busy at Marion High?
Suzie: Sports. We played sports. Track, and basketball. Softball, volleyball. Played all the sports – though I was never a cheerleader. I didn’t really have a favorite. All of us neighborhood kids all played together all the time. Baseball on Sundays, it was just the normal thing to do.

MP: We’ve heard that you used to run track barefoot? That seems like it’d be tough!
Suzie: I hate shoes. We never ever wore shoes at home, ever. We lived on a junkyard, and we were always stepping on nails and cutting our feet. But we never wore shoes, ever.

MP: That’ll toughen you up in a hurry! What were things like in Marion in the ‘60s and ‘70s?
Suzie: We didn’t really come to town a lot. Mom had all of us kids, and she’d wanna get away from us, so when she went to town none of us went. That was her free time! Even grocery shopping was probably a vacation to her. When the fair was in town, we’d always go down and play the games and stuff. When I was in high school, we’d cruise from the Whippy Dip down to the bank, just back and forth. I don’t know why, just something we did.

MP: Since graduation, what has kept you busy?
Suzie: A lot of odd jobs. Factories; milking cows. Worked on the railroad for a bit.

MP: What was working on the railroad like?
Suzie: I started out as a plater – picking the rail up and putting plates under it – and then I was a spiker. Whatever they told you to do, I just did. I transported prisoners for a while; I hated that job. Hated, hated, hated it – but it was a job, and work’s work, so I just went where the work was.

MP: What has been your favorite job?
Suzie: Any job where my family was. I always worked with a lot of my sisters and brothers. We worked at Eisenga’s Potato house, Nabco, Four Winns, haying – any odd jobs where my sisters and brothers were, because we always have a good time together. Always.

MP: Are you still close with your family?
Suzie: Very close. There’s 11 of us now. We still get together for every holiday.

The Nowland children – Suzie is in the back on the left, Carmonetta is in the center.

MP: What’s your favorite part of having a big family?
Suzie: Everything. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; good times, bad times. Everything. I’ve just got a really, really strong family. They never complain. I’ve got one brother who’s bed-ridden, one who’s got MS, one who’s got stage-four cancer, and you’d never know it. They never complain. Nephews who’ve had multiple heart surgeries. With such a big family, you get harder because you’ve got more [stuff] because there’s more of us, obviously. And nobody has ever once complained about anything. They’re just amazing. I’m very lucky. I don’t understand how people can just have one kid – but I don’t know how my mom had 15 though.

MP: Tell us about the Suzie Nowland family.
Suzie: Kali’s my oldest, she’s my biological daughter. I couldn’t do anything without her, because she’s kind of the rock. I’m the “fly by the seat of my pants” type, and she’s like no…[puts on the brakes].

MP: So she straightens you up once in a while?
Suzie: Probably not enough. And then there’s Austin, he’s 16, and Britton, she’s 11. And some of the neighbor kids stay with me quite often.
Kali works, of course. Austin – and there’s no other way to say it – Austin is Austin. Britton likes her animals – she’s sporting a cast, she broke her ankle. And Austin has surgery on his foot on the 28th, so they’ll both be in casts at the same time!

MP: What is your favorite part of living in Marion?
Suzie: People say, well everyone knows everybody’s business. And it’s Marion, true. But if anything happens, everyone’s going to be there. Whether you know that person or not, even though it’s a little town, you’re going to help somebody in some way.
One of my friends, Kathleen, I really didn’t know her growing up, and now she’s one of my best friends. She’s got me helping out at the food pantry – which I didn’t even know existed. And that’s what I like. If the phone rings at three o’clock in the morning, or if you need something at three o’clock in the morning, there’s always someone who’s gonna show up.

MP: So you fly by the seat of your pants? What keeps you busy?
Suzie: I do. If you call me – and you could call me tomorrow and say, ‘Hey Suzie I’m doing this, what are you doing?’ I’m doing whatever you’re doing. If you call me, I’m going. They’ll ask: ‘What’s your plans?’ I don’t know, what are my plans?

MP: Who have been your role models over the years?
Suzie: I don’t think I could pick one. They all have that one spark. I have 15 of ‘em. But I guess I have more than that – nieces, nephews, good friends. But I can tell you right now, whatever happens in our family, it’s always Carl or Bob’s fault. They don’t even have to be there, but it’s always going to be Carl or Bob’s fault.

MP: Why is that?
Suzie: We don’t know. We don’t really know, but it’s always Carl or Bob’s fault. The older kids might have a different person who they’d say whose fault it is.

MP: Freakin’ Carl!?
Suzie: That’s exactly the words we use! Freaking Carl. What the [heck]?!?
MP: What has been the best advice that you’ve been given over the years?
Suzie: Just be yourself. Be happy. Be happy and be yourself. Try to be a good person. I see a lot of kids, and everything is success, success, success. Drive those kids. And yeah, kids have got to be successful, but I think it’s just as important for them to be nice people. It’s important to raise good kids and good people. Success is up there, but being a good person is just as important.

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