Woman travels 5,000 miles to Merseyside town that's 'heaven on Earth'

A woman who moved from Merseyside to the USA almost six decades ago said her hometown is still "her idea of heaven on Earth".

Suzanna Clarke, 80, packed her bags for a new life when she was just 18-years-old and dreaming of bigger and better things. Now settled in sunny California, she said "her faith in British people went up" following a visit to Southport, where the kindness of strangers lifted her spirits during difficult times.

Suzanna, a retired teacher, moved to America in 1966 to pursue higher education, eventually earning degrees in both philosophy and literature. She returned to Southport every other year to visit her disabled older brother, and last set foot on English soil in March last year to organise his funeral at St. Andrew's Church, Maghull, following his death.

During her visit, she and a friend visited Antonio's, on Lord Street, where she misplaced important documents she needed to fly back to California.

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She said: "I was carrying a navy blue coat with pockets that have zippers so the contents were safe. As a veteran traveller, I should have known better but I had put my US passport, US drivers' license, credit cards, ATM card, cash and other valuables in the zipped pockets.

"I did this as I always feel more secure if I have all my important bits with me. Unfortunately, I was distracted and wanted to get my friend home and having laid the coat on the back of the chair, I walked away not realising that I had left it.

"It goes without saying, when we got home I nearly died from horror when I realised what I had done and I still do not know how I kept from a screaming panic. So I literally ran most of the way back to the shop.

"They were still open even late in the day but I could not see the coat. I truly was in a panic and could not think what to do next. But when I ran into the shop, both employees looked at me and said, calm down, we have it here and it is safe. They knew exactly why I was there!

"Sure enough, everything was intact and I nearly fainted from relief. They told me a little boy around ten years old had spotted the coat and he and his father brought it into the shop for safe keeping."

Suzanna was also pleasantly surprised by the kindness of the town's young people while taking the number 46 bus from Birkdale. She said: "I stood on the platform and was offering up my fare, when two young boys, clearly teenagers, from Birkdale High School, jumped up from their seats and insisted I sit down.

"They even helped me by taking my arm and seating me. A similar experience happened the year before when a little girl from Christ the King offered to pay my bus fare before escorting me to a seat.

She added: "Southport is my idea of heaven on earth and I long to get back as soon as possible and I cling to the idea that there are still very decent young people there. Where I live, no such kindness and honesty would have taken place so these memories are truly very special."

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