It's been a long way to Brewton

Published 6:02 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

By By LYDIA GRIMES Feature Reporter
Sue Laing has come a long way to get to Brewton. She is a native of Hungary having been born there in 1946. She is now the art instructor at Jefferson Davis Community College and happy to be in the sunny south.
She currently maintains an office in the fine arts building on campus and instructs students in the art of painting and pottery. She has students of all ages come into her classes hoping to build their skills.
Teaching art skills were not part of Laing's early life. She was born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father in Budakalasz, Hungary. Her life story began with her mother's family being rounded up and killed by the Gestapo under the rule of Adolf Hitler. Her mother would have been slaughtered too if not for her father. They had known each other before the war and when the Jews were being rounded up, he smuggled her off to his parents in the country. They apparently were either afraid to keep her or did not want to and she was 'kicked out' of their home. His sister did take her in and hid her during the rest of World War II when it was safe for her to come out of hiding. The couple were married and began life struggle to make a living. They had lost everything during the war and had to begin all over again.
The family immigrated to Alce in France when when she was three and then to Paris before immigrating to Canada when she was six years old. She began school in France and continued her education in Canada. She was the only child and grew up speaking both English and Hungarian. To this day the family still talk in Hungarian a lot of the time.
She was raised in the Catholic church and although she knew that her mother was Jewish, she did not know what that meant for her.
After the family arrived in Canada, her father worked in heavy duty mechanics and her mother was a cook. He later opened a shake mill, making shakes for roofs. Laing attended school for a while but never finished high school
Over the next ten years, she worked several jobs supporting herself. She was married and divorced, even though she was raised in the Catholic church.
In 1989 she went on permanent disability. She had surgery in 1980 and did not heal properly, so her insurance did an investigation as to why.
It was that experience that got Laing interested in her Jewish heritage. Since then she has developed a keen interest in the religion and the people, making it a a big part of her life. Although she was raised as a Catholic, she still considers herself as both Jewish and Catholic. She attends Catholic services and Jewish services.
With a long history of illness and pain, she was on a lot of medication and did not know her limitations as to what she could or could not do. She began to wean herself off the medication and discovered she had a talent for art. She attended Malaspina College and graduated in 1999.
By this time she had been married twice and divorced. She was looking after her elderly parents and her husband was helping her look for a position. He called her one day and said that there were jobs all over the United States. There was one at a small town in Alabama and asked her if she was interested. She said 'of course' and the rest is history.
It has been a difficult time for her. Her parents are in poor health and her two children all live in Canada. She is working on becoming a United States Citizen and one problem is that she can't leave the country. She is working very hard to get permission to return to see about her parents. She did get a chance recently to see her grandchildren went they made the trip just across the border so that she could visit.
She spends her free time creating her own artwork and displaying it in a couple of shops in Pensacola. She likes to garden and cook and has for company some cats and dogs.