1956 ~ 2018
Susan Michaels, former co-anchor of KING-TV's "Seattle Today", passed away on December 21st at her home in Sultan. In addition to her accomplished career in television, Michaels was known as a champion for animals, founding the nationally-known animal sanctuary Pasado's Safe Haven.
Born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois, Michaels attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and found her first job in television as a reporter at WICD-TV (NBC). From there, she moved to St. Louis and worked as a reporter, producer and host at KETC-TV (PBS) and KDSK (NBC).
Relocating to Chicago, Michaels won three Emmy Awards as the co-host of "PM Magazine" on WFLD-TV (Fox). In 1987, Michaels came west to Seattle, where she was named co-host of "Seattle Today". During this period, Michaels got involved with animal welfare, creating the annual gala, "Tuxes & Tails", for the King County Humane Society.
In 1991, Michaels transitioned out of television and opened her own business, A Grand Affair, a Bellevue store specializing in women's formalwear. The store gained national exposure when Michaels was featured on "CBS This Morning" and "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show." In 1992, Susan appeared on the cover of Inc. Magazine, which highlighted her success as one of the new breed of small business leaders.
Throughout her life, Michaels dedicated much time and effort to animal causes. She found her true calling in 1992, when the tragic death of Pasado, a beloved donkey who lived in Kelsey Creek Farm in Bellevue, prompted her to follow her passion for animals and enter the world of non-profits. Susan and her then-husband Mark Steinway founded Pasado's Safe Haven, a sanctuary dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in need. They built Pasado's into a major force that would have long-lasting impact on the lives of both companion animals and farm animals.
The sanctuary eventually expanded to an 80-acre farm in Monroe, housing hundreds of animals including dogs, cats, cows, donkeys, pigs, llamas and goats. Pasado's investigated cases of animal abuse and facilitated large-scale rescues of puppy mills. With community support, Pasado's offered rewards to identify the abusers and advocate for their criminal prosecution.
To pass on an appreciation of animals to new generations, Michaels held classes including her popular "Sanctuary 101", which inspired others to start their own micro sanctuaries. During the holiday season, Michaels hosted cruelty-free Thanksgiving celebrations and coordinated "Home for the Howlidays", which distributed dog and cat food and other much-needed pet supplies to the homeless and less fortunate.
One of Michaels' major achievements was the creation of The Spay Station, a mobile spay / neuter clinic that travelled to the most needy areas in Seattle. Over the past 15 years, The Spay Station has been responsible for thousands of spay / neuters, greatly helping to diminish the number of animals going to shelters.
In 2000, Michaels appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in a segment called "Finding Your Spirit". The exposure on "Oprah" allowed Pasado's to expand even further, attracting supporters from around the world.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Michaels was deeply affected by seeing the footage of animals stranded in the New Orleans floodwaters. Pasado's put together a rescue team that travelled to Louisiana and, over the next month, rescued over 1,200 animals. The work done on the ground by organizations like Pasado's Safe Haven spawned changes in FEMA policy to consider animals in disaster evacuation plans.
Perhaps Susan's finest achievement was her lobbying for and passage of five bills in Washington State related to the care and welfare of animals. This included the historic "Pasado's Law", which made animal cruelty a first degree crime.
In 2010, Michaels retired from Pasado's to spend time with her own animals, of which she had many.
Susan is survived by her mother Rose, brother Forrest, many friends, her animals, and a legacy of service... giving a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.
Donations in Susan's memory should go to an animal welfare organization of your choice.
Her ashes will be spread in a field of daffodils that she planted in memory of all the animals she helped to save.
Published in The Seattle Times from Jan. 9 to Jan. 10, 2019.