BEST MATES: Suzi O'Connor and Donna Maahs share the finest champagne as well as lashings of friendship,
BEST MATES: Suzi O'Connor and Donna Maahs share the finest champagne as well as lashings of friendship,

This vintage friendship is worth bottling

THEY share a friendship forged by facing tough realities without ever letting what life throws at them get in the way of a very good glass or two of champagne.

If you could bottle the friendship of Flutter Noosa owner Donna Maahs, a Bali bomb survivor and favourite client Suzi O’Connor, it would be labelled vintage “Louis Roederer” champagne.

Suzi, has terminal cancer of the esophagus, and with the same determination the former nurse employed to help start off the Peppers hotel chain in the Hunter Valley years ago, is also set on spending times with her sons who are coming to visit her in a few weeks.

The lunch was “fantastic, really lovely”.

“I’ve been going to Donna to have my eyelashes down with her for about seven years,” Suzi said.

At the time Suzi was living in Majorca and on visits to Noosa to see her mum in Tewantin, would be “straight in there” to Flutter to greet Donna in Spanish, much to her delight.

For Suzi, the shout of a girl’s afternoon out at Pier 11 at Noosa Marina, was a feast of friendship, with the wonderful hospitality provided by restaurant owner Nicole Anderson the icing of a delicious cake.

Suzi and Donna had the best glad rags on and their brightest faces.

“I haven’t been in Noosa long so I don’t have a great army of friends, so Donna I would have to say is my closest friend,” Suzi said.

“We had the best champagne (Louis Roederer).”

This is the sort of shot in the arm of pure bonhomie Suzi needs to be here when her sons and ex-husband, who lives in Canberra arrive, in Noosa to see her soon.

“I’ve got two boys, one’s 38 and lives in Amsterdam and has a restaurant (three actually) called The Drover’s Dog which is very, very popular and the youngest son who is in Sydney,” Suzi said.

“That (visit) will be wonderful.”

The photo of their first lunch together - Suzi O'Connor and Donna Maahs.
The photo of their first lunch together - Suzi O'Connor and Donna Maahs.

She met her former husband Mike overseas and “fell in love” and eventually came to Australia to live. He was a geologist but they decided to leave their careers.

Suzi went from nursing to opening a restaurant called Suzi’s Bistro in Burwood while Mike started a cleaning business.

Eventually they moved to the Hunter Valley to open up their first Peppers stay and by the time they sold out they owned 25 hotels.

Donna for her part said their lunch the other day a celebration of mateship and overdue payback.

She approaches life from the perspective of someone, who at 28 was outside the Sari Club in Bali back in 2002, when the terrorist bomb went off leaving her with shrapnel wounds.

The lasting legacy of her brush with death is a deep appreciation what makes life worthwhile.

One of her joys is spending time with warm-hearted characters like Suzi.

“She shouted me a lunch a few years ago.

“I wanted to return the favour and take her out to a ladies lunch, my shout.

“She came in and got her lashes and waxing done the other day with me.

“She was looking fabulous, her hairs grown back because she’s through her chemo, she’s looking good.”

So with that they both “dolled up” and arranged some rides to and from lunch to make the most of the expensive champagne.

“I asked Nicole for the best table and the best setting.”

Donna loves the special bonds she makes with her clients.

“I probably counsel them more so to make them not only beautiful on the outside … I actually dig deeper and I get in to the inside. I always make sure my clients are looked after.

“Us ladies deserve the best. So today we did.”

They shopped at the marina afterwards and Donna bought a special frame to put a photo of Suzi and her from this special occasion.

“Suzi has a photo in a frame of our first lunch,” she said.

“Love is just finding your perfect best friend and being content with yourself,” Donna said.