Last week, I said goodbye to Susan Anne Claire Strump Whitehead Townley.
She was fiercely independent despite two marriages. She could be rigid. She could be warm. She held grudges, but had an enormous capability to forgive. She was smart, funny and a diehard liberal that laughed at the “No Socialism” sign of a neighbor. She had deep friendships that sustained her. She hated traffic jams and related that her use of profanity behind the wheel was one of her quirks. She was unapologetic about who she was and what she believed. Like us all, she was too complex to be summed up appropriately in a blog post.
Susan was my first cousin, once removed. Her mother Marion was my paternal grandfather’s sister. She was born in New York, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and eventually settled in Texas, first in Houston and then in the Gruene area of New Braunfels.
We had connected through Facebook after I stumbled across a cache of Gallagher family photos from the 1920s.From this online encounter, she and I developed a connection that grew when I happened to follow the trail she blazed to both London and Houston.
I spent weekends at her home in New Braunfels, discovering central Texas and the small towns strewn along the state highways and farm-to-market roads. She came to Houston to visit me. Susan had a very jaundiced eye when it came to Texas, but she loved it. She helped me discover the amazing place it is.
While our relationship was begun on a family connection, Susan became my confidante during a lonely year in Texas. It was hard to say goodbye when I moved back to London last fall. But there was Skype and e-mail to maintain our connection. But no more.
Faced with terminal illness, she refused to pursue medical intervention. On March 18, 2013, Susan spent the day with friends. Later that night she chose to end her life with dignity and on her own terms.
My friend and cousin, Susan Townley will be missed.