OK, she may not have been a gourmet cook, fastidious housekeeper, or able to read a road map, but she made up for those limited shortcomings 10 fold with her strength of character, warmth, grit, fun, determination, and spirit. Sadly, Susan Monroe Rankin passed away in Vero Beach, FL, on November 24, 2022, at the age of 85, after a six year battle with sarcoma cancer and dementia…… courageous to the max with never a mention of self pity. Death was never on her radar despite being in Hospice for 15 months. Right up to her last 72 hours, when asked how she was, she was always “fine and dandy”. She was the epitome of the Dylan Thomas line, “Don’t go gentle into that good night, rage, rage, against the dying of the light”.
Born in St Louis, MO, on April 24, 1937, Susan was the daughter of Milton and Marion Monroe. During the summer of 1947, at the age of 10, she moved to Scarsdale, NY, where she attended the public school system and graduated from Scarsdale HS in June 1955. Described in the yearbook as a the “Doctrine of Compatibility”, she was constantly active as a cheerleader, member of student government, and President of the Spanish Club. During her freshman year in high school she met and soon dated her eventual husband, Dan Rankin. She attended Mt Holyoke College, often fleeing to Williams College on weekends to see Dan. She graduated in June of 1959 and five days later, after their simultaneous graduations, they were married in the Scarsdale Congregational Church on June 12th.
Fourteen months after their marriage she gave notice she was no run-of-the-mill passive young wife as she survived ovarian cancer and a long period of radiation. Even her prominent New York City surgeons, who originally pegged life expectancy at six months to a year, later used the word “miraculous” (unique statement from an MD) in a recommendation when the couple pursued adoption. Following Dan’s three years of U S Naval duty in Newport, RI, and NYC, they moved to Philadelphia where Susan first taught at Green Street Friends School, and then joined Dan on the faculty at Germantown Academy. For the next 35 years Susan served as a reading teacher, video-photography teacher, and librarian while the couple lived on a farm in Gilbertsville, PA. Their two sons Kyle and Brooks joined them in 1966 and 1968 respectively.
As the family grew and the rigors of academic administrative life increased, the family managed to purchase a 27 acre island off the coast of Maine that provided R&R. Though the island had no electricity or fresh water the family spent three summers floating lumber to the island and constructing a two story sturdy cabin which still stands straight and tall after 50 years of Maine coastal weather. The boys, ages five and three, contributed what labor they could, but it was Susan on the other end of many rough cut 18 ft and 12 ft, 6 by 6s that had to be hauled up a quarter mile trail to the building site.. Besides being a valued carpenter, Susan was the cook and chief bottle washer. She, like Dan and the boys, always cherished those eight weeks of isolated togetherness. In the mid-70s the Rankins took a five year hiatus from Germantown Academy and moved to Boothbay Harbor, ME, where Susan provided a valued community service running a children’s consignment shop, and Dan taught in the Boothbay Region HS. Living on the coast they didn’t become rich, but they did learn, “You can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails”. And that they did.
At the turn of the century, with the boys grown and happily married, Susan and Dan retired from the academic world and moved to Vero Beach, FL, where they could continue to enjoy life on the water. Winters would be time on the Florida coast and summers would continue to be spent on the rocky shores of Maine. Always appreciating their Scarsdale roots, Susan and Dan have spent the last 20 years organizing and running four day high school reunions yearly around the country……Jackson Hole, WY, Monterey, CA, Hilton Head, SC, Lake George, NY, Williamsburg, VA, etc.
It’s with great sorrow that Dan, Kyle and his wife Michelle, Brooks and his wife Tuesday, and their children, Dakota and Alua, will say goodbye, but carry on…..they know life will never be quite the same without Susan. Life ends and conclusions are written, but the story of this loving, determined, and spirited woman will never be finished. The family knows grief is the price they pay for the great love the family shared.
“We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun. But the wine and the songs, like the seasons have all gone.” (Rod McKuen and Terry Jacks.)
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