RIP, Susan Wasch

susan
Susan B. Wasch

A light went out of the world  when Susan B. Wasch died. She never drew attention to herself but managed to bring out the best in others – and to share the best of herself.

Someone asked recently how long we’d known each other. I couldn’t remember, but it felt as though it had been all my life. She was one of those people who was endlessly enthusiastic about whatever projects or ideas were percolating in her community.

A first impression of Susan always was of energy of the high octane sort. She had more than most people half her age. I knew she was an passionate gardener and environmentalist but had no idea she was also a tennis champion.

Like my mentor Ellen “Puffin” D’Oench, Susan didn’t go right from high school to college. They both took off to raise children (four each) and support their husbands in high-powered careers, Derry D’Oench as a newspaper owner and editor, Bill Wasch as head of alumni affairs at Wesleyan. Puffin was in her forties when she graduated. Susan had attained retirement age by the time she finished at Smith. I never had a chance to tell her how much I admire people – women, in particular – who give up a life of comfort and ease to pursue rigorous academics.

Bill and Susan also mentored any number of young people, in a quiet way of course. One had been a young undergraduate at Wesleyan  who got into serious trouble. The next time I heard about him, he was working for them.

Susan of course bore her illness with grace and managed to appear glamorous even when she was undergoing chemotherapy. The treatments slowed her down, but her radiant smile never dimmed. When we spoke just before Christmas, Susan had her old energy back. The chemo treatments had stopped for the holidays.

We spoke because of the incredibly generous gift she and Bill gave to the James Family Letters film project. It remains to date the single biggest donation apart from the CT Humanities grant. Ash, Kathryn, and I are grateful and humbled by the gesture.

Susan, it will be to my eternal regret that I never told you how much I admired and continue to admire your beauty, grace, energy, and sensitivity.

The world is a lesser place without you. Thank you for being the person you were and for sharing your gifts with the rest of us.

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