Susan Jo Hanna, teacher and chorister. Born: 11 August 1957 in Dumbarton. Died: 30 March 2017 in Clydebank, aged 59.
Susan Jo Hanna, who has died aged 59, was an inspirational secondary school teacher and a leading light in the Dalvait Singers, one of Scotland’s best-known ladies’ choirs.
Her life was celebrated with a beautifully sung Requiem Mass on Saturday at a packed St Patrick’s Church in Dumbarton.
Parish priest Canon Gerry Conroy, was joined for the service by the Dalvait Singers and a large congregation of mourners, including more than 100 uniformed pupils and members of staff from Our Lady and St Patrick’s, Dumbarton.
It was a poignant occasion during which the eulogy was delivered by Charlie Rooney, the former head teacher of Our Lady and St Patrick’s, assisted by Susan Jo’s husband, John.
Susan Jo’s teaching colleague and fellow Dalvaits’ chorister Maureen Rodger played the flute and sang the recessional hymn, while senior OLSP pupil James MacIntyre sang the ancient Irish thanksgiving blessing, May the Road Rise to Meet You.
Patricia Duffy, depute conductor of the Dalvait Singers and a friend of Susan Jo’s from school, played the organ.
The responsorial psalm was sung by Mrs Patricia Imrie, and friends, family and colleagues of Mrs Hanna did the readings.
Mr Rooney said Mrs Hanna had died at the St Margaret of Scotland Hospice in Clydebank after a ten-month battle against cancer, which she fought bravely, looked after by the staff of St Joseph’s Ward and supported by her husband and family members.
She was closely attached to the Carmelite Sisters at Kirktonhill and Clerkhill, where the Dalvait Singers met for choir practice.
Singing was one of her great loves in life and the Dalvaits, led by the late Jean Graham CBE, achieved many national awards and raised significant funds for a host of charities.
Mr Rooney said: “For Susan Jo, the Dalvait Singers was about the joy of singing, bringing that joy to others, and developing lifelong friendships.
“In their heyday they made records, competed successfully in national choral competitions at home and abroad, and made several appearances on television.
“These included one on Top of the Pops, supplying the backing for Rod Stewart on his 1975 number one hit, Sailing.”
Professionally, teaching was a major part of Mrs Hanna’s life and she was highly respected by her pupils and colleagues, who viewed her as perceptive and valued her judgement.
Susan Jo, who taught English, gave advice and support to the pupils in her pastoral care group and they appreciated that.
Mr Rooney said: “She was there for them when they needed her. A number of young people owe their success to Susan Jo’s perseverance and her determination not to accept second best.
“Sometimes we could even hear that advice from the other end of the corridor. Susan Jo wore her heart on her sleeve.
“She also gave support to newly qualified teachers in their probationary year and, through example, supported and encouraged a high number of pupils at OLSP to follow her footsteps into teaching, helping them with their interviews for college and university.”
Mrs Hanna was the co-ordinator of the school programme to prepare students with their applications for higher education and, recognising the value of social events in the school, she helped to organise many of these, including the annual proms and trips out of school.
Susan Jo was born at Overtoun House maternity unit in Dumbarton to Joe and Mary Conroy, of Renton, West Dunbartonshire, and went to school in the village before going on to Notre Dame High School in Dumbarton.
She graduated from the University of Glasgow, and St Andrew’s teacher training college in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire..
While her father worked away from home in the oil industry, Mrs Hanna helped her mother to look after her siblings, Martin, Brendan and Angela.
Mr Rooney said: “The young Susan Jo prospered at school through natural talent and steely determination to achieve.”
As well as her commitment to the Dalvait Singers, Mrs Hanna was a member of the church choir in St Patrick’s and active in community affairs.
Susan Jo is survived by her husband, John, who worked in the Scotch whisky industry at Strathleven Bonded Warehouses, her brothers and sister, and nephews and nieces.
Her funeral took place from St Patrick’s to Dalnottar Crematorium in Clydebank.