When Wendy Mayo reminded Dr. Suzanne Jones that she was only scheduled for a 20-minute appointment and time was fast running out, Jones told her not to worry and let her stay longer. “I never left her office without her hugging me,” said Mayo.
“Dr. Jones had such an impact on my life,” she added. “When I heard the news that she passed, I knew it was a huge personal loss, for everybody in the community.”
When Arlene Standup received bad news while sitting in the hospital waiting room, Jones was there to support her. Jones saw tears in Standup’s eyes and immediately took her hand. She led her upstairs, and Jones’s office became a safe space to process grief.
George Glen was nervous for the birth of his first child in 1989, when Jones asked him if he wanted to deliver the baby. Standing by his side, Jones guided him through a successful birth. In 1992, she gave him the opportunity once again, and helped him welcome his second daughter to the world.
Susan Horne started as a rookie executive director at Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) in 1997, when Jones was director of professional services. Horne noticed how Jones was special and how she could say and address the difficult things in the most professional and compassionate way. “I always felt proud and confident with her on our team,” said Horne.
When Val Lahache was pregnant, she asked if she could bring her five-year-old daughter to the delivery. Jones not only said yes, but took the time to explain every step to the little girl. She remembered how Jones always cared for new generations. “She had taken the time to learn about our community and the impacts of historical and intergenerational trauma,” said Lahache. “Dr. Jones knew the importance of my family, and didn’t hesitate to meet my request.”
During the 1990 Kanesatake resistance, Jones didn’t stop seeing her patients. Janice Patton remembers how Jones came to work every day by boat, and staff at KMHC remember being told that she even flew in via helicopter to keep the community safe. “Kahnawake was her home away from home,” Patton explained. “She took care of everybody. She took care personally.”
“She worked alongside the traditional healers,” said Peggy Mayo-Standup, who remembered fondly Jones’s commitment to respecting the values of the community. “Kateri Hospital has traditional medicine incorporated within the treatment of its patients now – thanks to Dr. Jones.”
Dr. Gordon Rubin was with Jones from residency training. “She was completely dedicated to KMHC, her patients, and the community of Kahnawake for 35 years,” he said. “To all of us who were lucky enough to know and work with her, we have lost a great leader, and a great friend.”
These outpourings of love are only some of the many memories gathered from community members, as Kahnawake comes together to remember Jones’ brilliant life. It doesn’t take long to paint a picture of the kind, determined, passionate woman Jones was – everyone has a story to share.
Jones began her medical career in Kahnawake after she practised family medicine in the community during her residency at McGill University. She spent 35 years working as a family doctor and then as director of professional services at KMHC before retiring last summer. Care for the community was always her first priority – despite undergoing her own medical issues and receiving a kidney transplant, community members recall Jones giving out her personal cell and helping with emergencies long after hours.
Staff at KMHC thought of Jones as a “mama-bear” figure, said KMHC director of professional services Rachael Eniojukan. “She was tenacious in the fight for the rights of the community and her colleagues,” said Eniojukan.
Jones’s patients also remember her as such. For Patton, Jones will forever be remembered as someone who came to her rescue during a traumatic time.
“When I had my daughter, I was in labour for over 24 hours. I was so exhausted from the labour, I had no time to bond with her,” Patton recalled. Jones continually checked on Patton but the day after the birth a new paediatrician told Patton her child was paralyzed.
“Dr. Jones saw me distraught and then she ran out of the room,” Patton said. “She ran to the nursery. She was so upset. And then she came back, and she told me my baby would be fine.” Jones visited the nursery and clarified Patton’s daughter’s diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy, returning to Patton immediately to reassure her.
“I was so, so scared. I gave her a big hug. Birth is traumatic,” she said. “But she stood up for me. Like always. She made sure that I was okay, and that my baby was okay. That’s just the kind of woman she was.”
For Mayo, the 35 years that Jones was her doctor are remembered fondly. “She wasn’t just my doctor, she was my friend,” she said. Mayo invited Dr. Jones, her husband, and her daughter to her own baby’s naming, after Jones helped Mayo through a distressing pregnancy before delivering a healthy baby.
“She was so amazed and moved she would be invited to such a celebration,” Mayo remembered. “She was really a big part of my life. She wasn’t a regular doctor.”
At 15, Jones met the love of her life and future husband, Pedro Cabrejo. She warned him that he’d have to wait to start a family until after her medical career was established – and he did. She is survived by Cabrejo, her mother Gisèle Deslongchamps, her sister Lise and brother Normand, and her children Katherine, Alexandre, and Pierre-Sébastien. She is also survived by her two grandchildren, Arthur and Jules.
Jones will be remembered forever as someone who put the community before herself and as so much more than a wonderful doctor. Community members are invited to attend Dr. Jones’s memorial services at the Center Funéraire Côte-des-Neiges, 4525 chemin de la Côte-des-Neiges. The services will be held on Saturday, December 10, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., as well as on Sunday, December 11, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. A ceremony will also be held on Sunday at 5 p.m.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) have sponsored buses to transport Kahnawa’kehró:non wishing to attend the ceremony. Those wishing to join are invited to RSVP by leaving their name and telephone number with Lynn Beauvais at 514-970-6842. The bus will leave the KMHC parking lot at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, and space is limited to 48 seats.
Eve is a reporter with the Eastern Door, and was previously an Editor at the McGill Daily. She has also reported on harm reduction and Indigenous issues for the Montreal Gazette, the Hoser, the Rover, and more.