Suzanne "Sue" (Wade) McKeown (1936 - 2019)

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Obituary

Lifelong Alaskan Suzanne (Sue) Wade McKeown, 82, died February 15, 2019, in Juneau with her family by her side.

Sue was born into a prominent Alaskan family on November 22, 1936. Her maternal grandfather, William H. Case, a well-known photographer, came to Alaska at the time of the Klondike Gold Rush. In 1901, with his partner, Herbert Draper, he received a contract from the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad to photograph scenery along the route of the company's narrow-gauge railway which linked the port of Skagway to Whitehorse and connecting steamboats in the Yukon Territory where gold was being mined. Case later owned a photography studio in Juneau, the city where his children, including Madge Case, Sue's mother, grew up.

Sue's father, Hugh Joseph Wade, an attorney born in Iowa, was a member of the first group of FBI agents trained by J. Edgar Hoover. His initial assignment was the Territory of Alaska. He met Madge Case in Juneau, and after a lengthy, long-distance courtship, they were married in 1933 in Washington, D. C. They had three children: Hugh Gerald (Jerry); Suzanne; and Michael Howard (Mike), all born in Juneau. Jerry, a retired attorney, died in 2015, and Mike, a banker, died in 1971.

After leaving the FBI, and following his work for the National Recovery Administration Program in Washington, D. C., Hugh Wade returned to Alaska with his wife to serve as the territory's director of the Social Security Administration. Later, he was elected Territorial Treasurer. After the passage of the Alaska Statehood Act by Congress in 1958 Hugh Wade was elected Secretary of State (now Lieutenant Governor), serving with William A. Egan (Governor) in that position until 1966. Madge died in 1977 and Hugh, in 1995.

Sue, with wide-spaced brown eyes like her father's, attended Juneau's St. Ann's Catholic grade school and was graduated from Juneau High School in 1954. She attended Seattle University for two years and was graduated from Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1958. In 1959 she married James (Jim) McKeown at the Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau. They met in Alaska where Jim was spending the summer working on a fishing boat. Three of their children were born in Juneau and two in Anchorage, where the family moved several years later when Jim became president of Rollins Burdick, Hunter, an insurance company. A daughter, Kate Michelle, born prematurely in 1971, died two weeks following her birth. Jim McKeown died in 1976 at 39. Several years later Sue and her children returned to Juneau to live. Today, a large part of her family, which includes grandchildren, lives in Juneau.

Sue dedicated her life to caring for others. In 1984 she began working with children with disabilities in the Juneau School District, serving as a para-educator until 1992. Children with whom she worked called her "Miss Sue." She also worked at the downtown Bridge Adult Day Care Center, assisting people who had Alzheimer's disease from 1992 until her retirement in 2001. Stating that she "failed at retirement," she returned to JSD in 2002 and worked as substitute paraeducator until 2011.

While raising five children, Sue served on the boards of Glacier Swim Club and Catholic Youth Ministry. Sue's home had a revolving door of friends and relatives whom she fed and invited in with open arms. As her children became adults, Sue went on to welcome her children's spouses, eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and all the extended family she could have dreamed of. In her father's last years (he lived to be 94) Hugh Wade lived fulltime with Sue. "I would never have thought of his living with anybody but family," she said.

A devout Catholic, Sue was also an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates for office. She was especially dedicated to her friendships with girls with whom she grew up and with female friends she made later in life. One could always count on Sue's being there for a friend in need. "I'm so happy to see you," was a comment she offered with a warm smile to those she met and whose company she enjoyed.

Many friends, young and old, called her "Sue Boo," a nickname from her young adult years. Sue was also popularly known as a "soccer grandma" the past 24 years as she traveled Alaska and the West Coast cheering on her grandchildren. She enjoyed fishing in almost every one of Juneau's annual Salmon Derbies, reeling in many a fish with her trusty knuckle-buster. Sue also relished "road trips" with her family, driving the Alaska Highway between Juneau and Anchorage, camping along the way.
Sue's lifelong dream of visiting Ireland came true when her entire family journeyed to Ireland to celebrate her 70th birthday. Sue, her family, and friends, laughed and celebrated while boating down the River Shannon. For the past 17 years the family spent Thanksgiving weekend at the Shrine of St. Therese in the Shrine's cabins and lodge.

Sue McKeown is survived by her son Wade and his wife, Nancy; son Sean and his wife, Heidi; daughter Erin and her husband, Mark, and their sons, Dominic (Kelsey) and Max; son Martin and his wife, Marjorie and their son, Quincy (Molly), and daughters, Mackenzie (Jerrod), Madelynne, and Katie; and daughter Stacy and her husband, Moctar, and their sons, Ibrahima and Momar.

Sue is also survived by her nephew, Hugh J. Wade (Amabel), and great-niece, Kyla Tubeo Wade; nieces Megan (Dave) Wade and great-nephew, Charles Schroeder, and also niece Greta (Laurent) Wade and great-nephew Florian Wade, and niece, Kristi (Ryan) McKeown and sisters-in-law, Sylvia and Dorothy Wade and brother-in-law, Fred (Donna) McKeown. She also is survived by great-grandchildren Lupine and Lake Harvey, as well as cousins and other extended family. Lastly, Sue is survived by Joey, her dog and faithful companion the past 15 years.

A rosary for Sue will be held Friday, March 1, at 5 p.m. at the Shrine of St. Therese. A service will be held Saturday, March 2, at 1 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau, followed by an Irish send off at T. K. Maguire's immediately following the service. Those who knew Sue are invited to attend all three events.

Sue will be interred at the Columbarium at the Shrine of St. Therese in early summer. Even though she enjoyed beautiful gardens, in lieu of flowers, the family suggests friends honor Sue's memory through donations to the Shrine, address: 415 Sixth Street, Suite 300, Juneau, 99801.

Published in The Juneau Empire from Feb. 21 to Mar. 21, 2019
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