Suzanne Rocca, 1936 to 2013

11/14/2013

Suzanne Rocca, a fixture of Point Reyes Station who worked at the Palace Market for 26 years, volunteered at Sacred Heart Church and was the first female president of the West Marin Lions Club, passed away on Oct. 17. She was 77.

Suzanne had an unforgettable, unique laugh (“Teehee! Teehee!”) and boundless warmth. “She was just everybody’s ma,” said friend Kathy Addleman. “She just kind of did everything. You just felt comfortable with her.”

Suzanne was born in Marshall, the youngest of 12 children—only four of whom lived past the age of 24—but grew up in Inverness. Her mother, Rosie Sanchez, was a Coast Miwok, and her father, John Sanchez, was from Mexico and moved to the United States in his childhood. Rosie cleaned houses and John was employed as a custodian at the R.C.A. station on Point Reyes. 

Growing up, Suzanne played clarinet and softball at Tomales High. “She was picked [in softball] before me,” said friend May Genazzi. “We just all hung around and gabbed,” she recalled of their teenage years. “There wasn’t much to do in those days.” 

They did babysit, and Suzanne watched the Lunny and the Richardson children. “We babysat for 10 cents an hour,” May said, adding that a candy bar at the time probably cost about a nickel.

As a young woman, Suzanne worked at the old Palace Market, where Cabaline is now, at Harold’s Market, currently Whale of a Deli, at the Golden Hinde and at the Inverness Store. 

In the 1970’s, she began work at the Palace Market’s current location, where she was employed for 26 years. After retiring in 2001, she worked at what is now Ace Building Supply Center for a few years, until her health declined. 

When she was 28, Suzanne married Bobby Rocca, whom she had dated for about six years. But according to Suzanne’s niece, Loretta Rodriguez, somehow Suzanne had known who she would end up with much earlier. 

Last Saturday morning, during a memorial service at Sacred Heart Church in Olema, as Ms. Rodriguez stood in front of well over 100 attendees, she recounted a sleepover the girls had when the pair was just reaching preadolescence. 

Suzanne, giggling, had whispered, “I have a secret.” Ms. Rodriguez explained it would no longer be a secret once she divulged it, but Suzanne had shared it anyway: “When I grow up I’m going to marry Bobby Rocca.” Bobby, who worked as a truck driver for Toby’s for many years, was at the time her much older next-door neighbor.

Just a year after the two opposites married—she, social and outgoing, he, a bit of a homebody—they had their first and only child, Debbie, in 1965.

Suzanne and Debbie were very close; they shared friends, lived together and kicked back on cruises to Mexico. “It was a closeness that a lot of mother and daughters wish they had,” said friend Jackie Campigli, who said she got her first cigar from Suzanne. 

She was an active presence in Point Reyes—in the community at large, at Sacred Heart Church and among close friends for whom she constantly baked. She became the first female president of the West Marin Lions Club in 1997, when the club had 35 members, and only four of them women. 

Larry Brown, who was a member at the time and is the current president, remarked on her tenure. “She was a firm president and believed in what she was doing and made sure that things were done properly. She did an incredible job,” he said.

But she had past leadership experience, too, as president of the women’s club at Sacred Heart and of the Companions of the Forests, a now-disbanded women’s club. In the 1990’s she became a Eucharistic minister at Sacred Heart, providing the sacramental wafers during communion at mass. “It’s a very, very special ministry,” Ms. Campigli said. “We’re serving the blood of Christ that gives us life.”

Suzanne also participated in Helping Hands, a church program through which she organized receptions after funerals.

She unwound with trips to the River Rock Casino in Geyserville, where blackjack and slot machines were her favorites, Debbie said. 

“She loved to gamble, right up to the end,” Ms. Genazzi said. 

Suzanne struggled with kidney failure for many years, and although her dialysis treatment was draining, Debbie said a visit to the casino would reinvigorate her.

Gathered around the kitchen table at Ms. Genazzi’s a home off Highway 1 last weekend, a group of Suzanne’s friends recalled how she was not just a mother to her daughter but a maternal figure who took many under her wing.

Sheila Moore, a niece by marriage, loved her like a daughter. “I considered her a mother,” she said. “My kids called her ‘Granny Sue’ from the time they were born. And she loved them like they were her own.”

Bev Cannon, who now lives in Texas, said that when she moved here in 1994, she met Suzanne through her work with Debbie. When she needed a place to live, Suzanne invited her to move in with her. “She gave me a home,” Ms. Cannon said. 

Friends reminisced about her baking, and in particular her cream puffs, which she made without the aid of a recipe. Scott Yancy chimed in, a little bit in awe, “I have never tasted cream puffs better. They were just so airy.” 

She made cakes for innumerable birthdays, as well as weddings. Sometimes, Debbie said, she would just bring cupcakes downtown: to the bank or to the market, in any flavor that people desired: chocolate, vanilla, carrot. “Whatever people wanted,” she said.


Suzanne Rocca is survived by her daughter, Debbie Rocca, and niece, Loretta Rodriguez, and many other relatives.