Susan Jane Shepard (née Jennings) of Cohasset, MA passed away Saturday, August 10, 2019 at the age of 75.
Born August 28th, 1943 in Buffalo, NY to Dorothy and Leonard Jennings, Susan spent her early childhood on the family farm in East Aurora, NY with her older sister Karen, younger sister Mary and younger brother Tom. It was on that farm where her lifelong love of nature and deep empathy for growing things was awakened.
The family moved to East Grand Rapids, Michigan before settling in Guilford, CT where Susan completed high school. She attended Bates College in Maine for a year before returning to Guilford and marrying Robert Shepard. They had five sons there: Stephen, Mark, Scott, Jeffrey, and Craig. Years later, she’d half-joke that if she could be assured “the next one would be a girl, [she’d] do it again in a heartbeat.”
After divorcing, she moved with her children to South Windsor, CT in 1979, selecting the town largely for the excellent reputation of its public school system. A newly single mother without a college degree and responsible for five children, she pursued night courses in addition to her full-time job to complete her Bachelor of Arts and, later, her master’s degree in Organizational Development and Behavior at the University of Hartford. Her professional career began with an entry level job in the insurance industry in Hartford, CT and she worked her way up through the Hartford and Traveler’s Insurance Companies to retire from United Health Care as a project manager.
Susan retired to Ellington, CT where she volunteered at her community center as well as a local shelter for domestic violence. In 2012, she moved to Cohasset, MA to be nearer to some of her beloved grandchildren and became a member of the Second Congregational Church.
An incurable reader, she was also a talented craftsperson in her youth, building by hand the stone walls at the perimeter of her young family’s home in Guilford. She loved playing bridge and knitting. She loved the Beatles and Buddy Holly when young, and as an adult considered her aesthetics best expressed as being “between Handel’s Messiah and Elvis.” Susan was also a passionate advocate for social justice, and in later years lobbied the Second Congregational Church to become a sanctuary for immigrants. She was known equally for her strong-willed independence as well as her generosity and sweetness.
Her life-long devotion to her children and, later, grandchildren was evident to all who knew her. She is remembered by some of her sons’ friends as a second mother, opening a safe and healing house to them in times of need. And she is remembered by her friends as a compassionate and constant fellow traveler - though a formidable adversary in Bridge. Her quiet bravery in facing and overcoming some of life’s most harrowing challenges, including lung cancer, was simply astonishing.
She is survived by her sister Mary and brother-in-law Dennis Brunelle, brother Thomas and sister-in-law Caroline, brother-in-law David Thurman, her children Stephen, his wife Christina and son David, Mark and wife Antonina, Scott and wife Berit, Jeffrey and his wife Tracy and children Noah, Lily, and Sadie, and Craig and his wife Beth. Susan was predeceased by her sister Karen.
Family and friends are invited to celebrate Susan’s life on Friday, August 16, 2019 from 11:00am-2:30pm at McNamara-Sparrell Funeral Home, 160 So. Main St. (across from St. Anthony Church), Cohasset, followed by a funeral service at 3:00pm at the Second Congregational Church, 43 Highland Ave, Cohasset, with Dr. Rev. Karen Bailey-Francois officiating.
Memorial contributions may be made in memory of Susan to Interval House, P.O. Box 340207, Hartford, CT 06134-0207 https://intervalhousect.org/get-involved/donate/in-tribute-donation/