Dear Suzanne, you would have loved the party we had for Reade and Lisa and their newly-adopted children yesterday. Your sister Mildred, co-hosts Ann and Gina and many friends came to welcome the newest members of your family. Look at these pictures and you will see the joy on everyone’s faces. Just two years ago you were here in our backyard yourself, only weeks before you departed for heaven. We felt your presence.
How proud you would be of Lisa and Reade. They are taking on this new challenge with courage and composure. It took oodles of perseverance and multiple trips to Haiti to bring Arabella Suzanne and Maki Daniel home to Arlington. In just four weeks they seem to be adjusting beautifully. For the hour and a half they were here, they smiled, clapped and let themselves be passed around by adoring strangers. No crying was heard; no tear was shed. Since they were already well-supplied with clothes and toys, Lisa suggested that any gifts be in the form of contributions to the orphanage where Maki Daniel and Arabella had lived.
Reade and Paul were just toddlers when I first met you at the old Safeway on Lee Highway, the one with grocery bins on a conveyor belt from the check-out counters to the parking lot pick-up site. How your boys loved climbing into and out of those bins! In fact, it may have been the enthusiasm of young boys that made Safeway discard that noisy, fun system. You invited me to a meeting to lobby the county for a “vest-pocket” park behind the 7-11 on Pollard Street. There I met your neighbors, the Westerns, and Lilli and Sarah became fast friends. The political skills you had developed earlier on Capitol Hill proved valuable in such community efforts and later in your leadership of PTAs at Taylor, Williamsburg and Yorktown.
On my 30th birthday I remember strolling 2-1/2 year old Lilli and 3-month-old David by your house and chatting with you as we watched the kids play. I told Steve that evening that I had found someone I believed would be a true friend. A few years later you brought Paul and Reade for piano lessons every Monday. It was you who encouraged me to join a music teachers group, so that they could participate in festivals as you had back in North Carolina. Last week I concluded 34 years’ membership in Northern Virginia Music Teachers Association.
In the fall of 1980 two-year-old Shelby was in a body cast after hip surgery. Lilli had begun piano lessons with another teacher two miles away. Ever alert to unmet needs, you very kindly drove Lilli back and forth to her lesson while your boys had their lessons with me. Reade and Paul were delightful students. Once I encountered John in a store and told him how talented they were. With a smile, he said, “Oh, you tell all the parents that!” But I had evidence. Paul won a music-listening contest and Reade took a star turn as Amahl in your church’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” I could see, though, that they enjoyed Cub Scouts at least as much as piano. Not surprising, because you were Den Mother extraordinaire. You passed on your yellow shirt and a folder full of ideas when I took on David’s Den.
PTA Board meetings with you as President were fun, focused, efficient and effective. That’s because you laid a lot of the groundwork in advance. Who could refuse your precisely-targeted, Southern-accented telephone requests? Why, we didn’t even have answering machines until the mid-80s, much less email. One night we traveled to Leesburg to advocate for a seven-period day in Virginia high schools. I added so many edits to your speech that you could hardly read it when it came your turn to speak. But when you spoke, people listened. Our side won and our kids benefitted.
After your dear John died and Steve was away a lot for business and golf, we began to get together for impromptu dinners. You often invited me to events at Georgetown Presbyterian and were always up for a concert or a museum. In the winter of 2001 or 2002 you visited us for a couple of days at our rented house in Bonita Springs, Florida. I drove you to Naples and got to meet your sister Winnie. In 2003, I joined a group of friends who surprised you on your 70th birthday with a luncheon at Washington Golf. Paul and Reade surprised you again in 2008 to celebrate number 75. In 2004 we attended Reade’s wedding and you came to Shelby’s.
Most memorable of all was our trip to Montana in June 2005 with your friend Jenny, my friend Marjo, my brother Joel and his wife Elisabeth. We followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark with a bus full of Elder Hostelers, then rented cars to see the scenic glories of Glacier National Park. We hiked, we boated, we learned, we laughed, and we sang joyfully.
So why am I writing this remembrance now? I meant to write it two years ago. I always thought that I might be your best friend; then I saw at your lovely funeral how many others counted you as their best friend. I was, unlike Lewis & Clark, a little daunted. This morning I realized that the love so visible at yesterday’s party was your love and John’s being passed on through Reade and Lisa to two very lucky children. I felt you smiling down on all of us. Love, Martha