NEWBURY - Susan Morrison Mayer, 81, a dedicated parent, grandparent, educator and active philanthropist, died peacefully at New London Hospital, surrounded by family, Monday, April 16, 2012, after a brief illness.
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Susan was a deeply devoted teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. She was passionate about her community involvements locally and regionally, and was active on many boards and in many community organizations.
Susan was born April 29, 1930, in Boston, to parents Susan Giles Kedian and Thomas J. Kedian, and subsequently adopted by her stepfather, James Murray Morrison. She was raised in part by her grandfather, George A. Giles, a Massachusetts real estate entrepreneur, insurance company executive, live-stage and motion picture theater owner and Massachusetts House assemblyman and a scholarship graduate of Harvard University from Apalchin, N.Y.; he was a resident of both Belmont, Mass., and Newfound Lake. He was a prominent businessman and founder of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. Susan credited her grandfather for her philanthropy and served as president and chair of Trimount Theatres, Inc., George A. Giles Company and Giles Colonial Corporation.
Susan grew up in Needham and Wellesley, Mass., where she attended public school and graduated from Wellesley High School in 1948. She attended Colby Junior College (now, Colby-Sawyer College), graduating with an associate of arts degree in 1950. She attended Tufts University, Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development, one of the country's leading departments serving children, youth, and families through its research, practice and teaching; graduating with a bachelor's degree in education in 1953. She taught nursery school students for many years, and spearheaded initiatives for the treatment and education of students with mental retardation, brain injury, learning disabilities and other cognitive maladies.
In 1953, Susan married George Edward Slye, former vice chairman of Spaulding & Slye Corporation, a national development and real estate services firm based in Boston and Washington. They lived in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts while raising their four children. In 1987, Susan married Gerald Mortimer Mayer, a "forever friend" and first love whom she met at Camp Red Fox on Newfound Lake during World War II. Together, Gerald and Susan nurtured and cherished a combined family of eight children and 21 grandchildren.
Susan has served many organizations and causes over the years, including the Waltham Hospital Auxiliary (president); the Fenn School (board of directors) of Concord, Mass.; the Walker Home and School (board of directors) of Needham, Mass.; Colby-Sawyer College of New London (president, alumni association and longtime member, board of directors), where among other things she and Gerry funded library, faculty and social development, and she was honored with the Alumni Services Award and Susan Colgate-Cleveland Distinguished Service Award; The Northern Stage Theater Company (board of directors), White River Junction, Vt.; The Women's Fund of New Hampshire, by which she was chosen to receive the 2005 Woman of Achievement Award; the Lake Sunapee Regional Visiting Nurse Association; Planned Parenthood of Northern New England; the New London Hospital Association; the Sunapee Harbor-Riverway Inc. of Sunapee, the Fells Estate & Garden (board of directors and volunteer); of the General William Mayer Foundation Inc. of New York; and a member of St. Andrew's Church in New London.
Susan loved life and people. Her energy and commitment knew no bounds; and, throughout her life she applied and honed her work ethic, humor and native optimism to create and seize opportunities that improved the world around her.
Susan enjoyed memberships at the Wychmere Beach Club of Harwichport, Mass.; the Wayland Swimming & Tennis Club; the Lake Sunapee Yacht Club; the Sunapee Country Club; and the Baker Hill Golf Club in New Hampshire. Throughout her vigorous life, Susan loved canoeing, swimming, gardening, theater, music, politics, learning and teaching.
Predeceased by her beloved husband, Gerald, Susan is survived by her children, Robin S. McNutt, wife of Steven D. McNutt (Springfield, Minn.), Janet S. Meagher, wife of Robert J. Meagher (Bow), David M. Slye, husband of Jill A. Slye (Needham Heights, Mass.), and Paul E. Slye, husband of Cecil E.H. Slye (Los Angeles); and her stepchildren, Cathey M. Kennedy (Livingston, Texas), Deborah M. O'Brien, wife of Dennis D.M. O'Brien (Mystic, Conn.), Cynthia M. Benfield, wife of Daniel P. Benfield (Mystic, Conn.), and Gerald G. Mayer, husband of Elisabeth W. Mayer (Sudbury, Mass.); her grandchildren, Samuel R. McNutt, Daniel M. McNutt, Matthew S. McNutt, Katelin R. McNutt, Michael T. Meagher, Daniel J. Meagher, Alison S. Meagher, Dayton E. Slye, Charles ("Jack") M. Slye, Thomas G.G. Slye, McCabe E.H. Slye, Samuel G. Slye; and her step-grandchildren, Gerald R. Kennedy, Charles G. Kennedy, James D. Kennedy, James N.P. O'Brien, Timothy G.F. O'Brien, Edward P. Benfield, Thomas G. Benfield, William H. Mayer, and Anne E. Mayer.
Susan will be remembered as a person of extraordinary strength, humor, conviction and compassion. She was an inspired teacher and advocate for the young and disabled who applied and realized her calling in the rearing of her children and grandchildren - and countless friends over the years. We will miss her welcoming smile, listening ear, capacity to learn and engage and her uncompromising commitment to her family, friends and greater community.
services:A memorial service will be held at The First Baptist Church at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 28, in New London. The family asks that in lieu of flowers gifts be made to the Fells Historic Estate & Gardens, the Lake Sunapee Regional Visiting Nurse Association and Women's Trust. Chadwick Funeral Service of New London is assisting the family with arrangements.
Published in Union Leader on Apr. 22, 2012