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Times writer loses battle with cancer

Published Sep. 27, 2005

Suzanne Hayes shared her struggle against the disease with her readers.

Suzanne Hayes, a St. Petersburg Times reporter whose smile graced the newspaper's Dade City office for most of the past 10 years, died Wednesday (Sept. 13, 2000) after an extended fight against cancer. She was 54.

The Ridge Manor woman fought much of her battle against cancer in the pages of this newspaper. She wrote the Health Notes, East and Religion calendar, as well as religion feature stories from the Times' Dade City bureau. Her last article appeared Jan. 1.

"Suzy brought joy and laughter to all who entered the Dade City bureau beginning in 1989," said Times North Suncoast Editor Bill Stevens. "She kept the office running and developed into a fine religion writer. She also gave our readers valuable information about health care, and shared with them her own valiant fight."

Upon returning to work in May 1999 after intensive chemotherapy, a nervous Mrs. Hayes told her readers about her complicated stem cell transplant and exposed glimpses of the personality that those around her say they will not forget.

"In one respect, I will now fit in better," Mrs. Hayes wrote. "My hairstyle, or lack of one, now matches half of my fellow co-workers _ both males. Peach fuzz began appearing last week, and I find myself rubbing it as one would a genie's lamp."

Before working at the Times, Mrs. Hayes spent about 10 years as a secretary at a now-defunct Tampa roofing company. Meeting people was her favorite part of being a journalist, said Tom Hayes Sr., her husband.

"She never met a stranger," he said.

Mrs. Hayes was staying at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa when she died.

Survivors include her husband; a son, Tom Jr., Spring Hill; her mother, Elizabeth Scott, Thomasville, Ga.; and a brother, Steve Koch, Land O'Lakes. Her daughter-in-law, Jean Hayes, is the community news coordinator for the Hernando Times.

No formal service is planned, her husband said, but friends will be invited to gather at the family's home and toast to Mrs. Hayes.