Susan Helen Stansbury
7 May 1950 – 5 May 2019
Born in Shell Lake, Wisconsin to Joe & Elsie Graf, the middle child of five, Susan was active in 4-H, band (clarinet), and graduated as the 1968 valedictorian of the Shell Lake High School. She was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison beginning in the fall of 1968. At the start of her sophomore year she met her future husband Michael (within a week of his arrival for freshman year at the UW). After attending University of Wisconsin–Madison for two years, she decided to take a year off to evaluate her life goals and worked as a Nurse’s Aide at the Shell Lake Hospital.
Susan and Michael were married on 12 June 1971 and moved to Seattle that Fall. Susan worked as the Assistant Dining Room Manager at a senior living facility and then in a bank loan department while Mike earned his Masters Degree in Fisheries from the University of Washington. In 1975, Mike was offered a job in Southern Oregon and they moved to Roseburg. Susan worked at a small, upscale deli and restaurant for several years and then enrolled at Umpqua Community College. While attending UCC in the fledgling computer program, she served the ASUCC (student government) as Business Manager. Working with computer programming and procedures, Susan knew she’d finally found a job she loved and for which she was extremely suited. After graduation, an opening developed at UCC and she was hired part-time to work with Computer Services and part-time to teach computer related classes. After a number of years, Susan decided to take a break from teaching when she and Mike moved into a new home.
In 1994, Mike & Susan were asked by the College President to fill-in for a CIS instructor going on sabbatical. They agreed and when that instructor opted to not return to UCC, Susan & Mike were hired full-time to share one CIS instructor position. Mike focused on networking, word processing, and spreadsheet classes while Susan developed and taught Desktop Publishing, Web Design, Database design and Database programming classes. In 2009, Mike & Susan took early retirement from UCC to continue their travels and enjoy their lives together.
Susan liked volunteer community service and appreciated the work done locally by the Altrusa service organization. Susan joined the Roseburg club and was an Altrusa member from 1988-2017. During this time she served as club president 1994-1995, several years as local Club Treasurer, District Twelve Treasurer, and the Foundation Treasurer. She loved to design and create layouts for presenting informative materials effectively in an entertaining way. She was recognized for these talents by Altrusa International and was named the International Communications Chairman. Her Talking Points and Through the Grapevine publication series and presentations were very well received within the organization as were her District Service Bulletins (known as the DSB) for District Twelve. Her redesigned, personalized, and updated yearbooks were eagerly received by the local club members who came to count on the book each year for membership connections, upcoming events, planning, and pertinent Altrusa information. The Celebration of Literacy project was one of her favorites because it directly impacted the students of Douglas County in a very positive way, giving them an enhanced opportunity for lifelong learning and success.
Susan’s greatest honor in the club, was being chosen as the District Twelve Outstanding Altrusan in 2006, although she felt her greatest contribution was developing Project ASK. This project focused on providing small grants to local schools for enhancing and enriching student education. For her inspiration, creation, chairing, and efforts to make Altrusa Serving Kids a success, Project ASK won the Mamie L. Bass award for the outstanding project. Susan really enjoyed her 29 years of working with Altrusa to enhance and uplift the lives of those around her. As one of her friends said recently
“She was always a teacher and always an inspiration.”
Susan was highly competitive and loved playing cards, working Sudoku, or putting together jigsaw puzzles. She and Mike started walking together in 2003 and thoroughly enjoyed the daily experience. She especially loved taking long hikes along the North Umpqua trail or the Oregon coast. Her competitive nature kicked in when she and Mike started keeping track of their walking on spreadsheets. She came to view the consecutive days walked of over 10,000 steps as a streak to be maintained, a goal, a source of pride, and a competition within her own view of life achievements. It was an extremely dismal day for her in the Spring of 2017, when a diagnostic medical test required her to break the +13 year walking streak she’d amassed!
Travel was another passion for Susan. It didn’t matter if it was a just short hop over to the coast, a car trip to the mid-west, or a multiple week cruise anywhere in the world. If she could it fit into the budget, she scheduled it! One of the car trips in the year 2000 included a stop in Helena, Montana. While walking inside the Capitol building, Susan needed to relieve herself of the morning’s coffee. Coming out of a ladies restroom, she told Mike with a big smile that it was beautifully designed and wondered if all state Capitol bathrooms were as nice...and that was the beginning of the Capitol P. From August 2000 to September 2011, Mike and Susan made sure that they left a little something in all 50 state Capitols. Susan even kept a log book and made a logo for her Capitol P quest, while Mike always made sure to get a picture of her outside the ladies room door at every Capitol visited.
In addition to travel in the USA, she was fascinated by other countries, their history, and culture. Over the almost 48 years Susan and Mike were married, they traveled together exploring the world and tasting the unique flavors of 55 countries. Antarctica was the only continent not on the list–by choice! She once tried to decide on a favorite trip or place but realized it was an impossible task. Although each trip contained marvelous sights and experiences, each one was special because of the close friends and relatives with which we traveled. It was the comradery that was made each trip “The trip of a lifetime!” Something that always found its way into our suitcase or carry on, was a new cookbook (or two). Traveling brought new appreciation for cooking and presenting meals along with the often delightful regional customs. Susan enjoyed creating a special menu, designing the table setting layout, and cooking elegant meals for groups of 6 to 12 people. She took pride in the fact that no one ever went home hungry and they always seemed to enjoy her food and entertainment style.
Susan enjoyed reading–especially The Christmas Story and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever during the winter. Wilbur Smith, Dan Brown, Alexander McCall Smith, and Bill Bryson were among her favorite authors any time of the year. Cookbooks however, became the primary category in her library. At the time of her passing, she had over 350 food, table setting, and cooking oriented books and publications on the shelves. Susan’s not-so-secret pleasure was watching soap operas. Once recording TV shows became practical, she always had episodes available to her for The Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, As the World Turns, and The Bold and The Beautiful.
Susan loved chocolate milk, any dark chocolate, dark beers (especially the seasonal JubelAle), and a martini made with Hendricks gin and three Castelvetrano olives. Her favorite movies were The Parent Trap (both versions), Love Actually, The Sound of Music, both Mama Mia and its sequel, the first Die Hard (mandatory at Christmas), Adventures in Babysitting, and The Terminator.
Her favorite quotes were also the ones she lived by;
How great would life be if we lived a little of it everyday.
Good decisions do not make for good stories.
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
And her mantra for the last year; Wake Up, Kick Ass, Repeat!
Susan was diagnosed with stage 4, peritoneal cancer in June 2017 and a poor, long term prognosis. With chemo treatments and incredible compassion from all the staff of Steelhead Specialty Group at the Community Cancer Center in Roseburg as well as phenomenal support from all her friends and family, we were all given a gift of almost two more years with Susan’s smiles and positive attitude.
Susan is greatly missed by those she knew and loved. Her insights, laughter, friendship, and joy of life will be remembered by many. Even though her name may be forgotten in the rolls of time, her essence and spirit will endure through the generations.
P.S. I’m sure Susan thought of her own passing as simply the beginning of a new adventure to relish with exotic places to explore...and maybe an ethereal martini!
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