Susan Keegan A pomegranate sits on a friend's table in Santa Rosa. At her cousin's home in New York, there is a jar filled with black mustard seeds. And somewhere in Ukiah, a neighbor is scrambling some eggs hatched by the chickens that so delighted Susan Keegan. These are the gifts Susan shared so generously from her garden, and they are a metaphor for a life spent planting, nurturing, and cultivating life's riches. But Susan Ettinger Keegan has died, suddenly and unexpectedly at home in Ukiah on November 11, 2010, and her family and friends are left in shock and grief. Susan was born July 23, 1955 in New York City, and graduated from Lakeland High School in the suburban community of Yorktown Heights where she was raised. As the National Champion of the high school Debate Society, she honed the critical thinking skills that would serve her so well throughout her life. Susan was admitted to Radcliffe College, where she studied briefly, eventually earning her BA and Master's degree in English literature at Sonoma State University. In New York she met Peter Keegan, and headed cross-country on a motorcycle trip in the mid-1970s, landing in a sun-filled apartment in San Francisco's Potrero Hill. Settling in Ukiah a few years later, they raised two beloved sons, Simon and Luke, who she cherished beyond words, wanting for them all that is right and good and joyful in this world. Susan also became engaged in a myriad of community activities. She worked first as a reporter for the Mendocino Grapevine, covering local politics and writing feature stories, then as business manager for the Ukiah Players Theatre, and in the 1990s as an instructor in English and Business at Mendocino Community College. For eight years in the 2000s, Susan served as community services director of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, where her knack for motivating volunteers and coordinating events, including Relay for Life, earned broad respect. She was particularly proud of passing tobacco licensing ordinances in the cities of Willits and Ukiah to decrease cigarettes sales to youth. Most recently, she was the Mendocino County coordinator for Breathe California, organizing web conferences and training for health care professionals. Susan liked to begin each day completing the New York Times crossword puzzle with quick efficiency. A voracious reader, she zipped through classics and popular works by an astonishing array of writers, from Dorothy Dunnett to Patrick O'Brian. She could recite Shakespeare monologues by heart but just as readily devoured new mysteries, as long as they had an intriguing twist. A lover of libraries, Susan was reputed to be the #1 user of the Ukiah Library, checking out as many as a dozen books every week, year after year. Not surprisingly, she was also a creative and skilled writer, crafting short stories, the bones of a mystery novel, and many non-fiction works, including a book on the Mexican Revolution. Susan also loved to sing, and was for many years a member of the local quartet -- the And Who Sisters. She learned Spanish in mid-life and was a passionate traveler, adding Italy, Russia, France, England, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina to her list in recent years. Urban life called to her and New York City held a special power. An actor in local productions, Susan's credits include Jesus Christ, Superstar and Amahl and the Night Visitors. This fall she was thrilled to be chosen as the Player Queen in the Mendocino Community College production of Hamlet, describing her elaborate costume: "My first days as a blond, and it is truly fabulous -- I sparkle, I glow, I have white greasepaint in my hair even after shampooing!" Susan's intelligence, wisdom and compassion were evident to all who knew her. She understood the meaning of loyalty, and stood by those she loved. She was good at everything to which she turned her attention. At home, this meant tending a lush garden, five hens, a fish pond, a bee hive, a worm box, and of course her beloved cat. She made bread from scratch, jam from her own strawberries, and strong coffee for anyone who stopped by, unless they insisted on tea. Susan lost her mother, Nancy Cole Ettinger, three years ago, but she is survived by her father, Stanley Ettinger; her birth mother, Jeanne Russo; her husband of 32 years, Peter; sons, Simon and Luke; sister, Linda Ettinger Puls; in-laws, Fred and Regina Keegan, Catherine Keegan, Ed and Karen Keegan, Paul and Mona Keegan, Michael and Debbie Keegan, and James and Rose Keegan; cousins, Karyn Feiden, Doug Feiden, Wayne Feiden and David Elsasser, and her Aunt Barbara and Uncle Barry. Susan was a devoted and loving aunt to many nephews and nieces, including Frank and Kathy Hurtado, Shaun and Rachel Hurtado, and Mackenzie and April Keegan. Her sudden death brings an incalculable loss to those who loved her, including so many friends. A memorial service honoring Susan's life will be held November 21, 2:00 pm, in the sanctuary at Ukiah United Methodist Church, 270 North Pine Street, Ukiah. Friends and well-wishers are welcome to share stories and remember Susan's beautiful spirit. The service will be followed by a potluck gathering in the Church's social hall. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Susan's favorite charities, including the Ukiah Library, Ukiah Community Center Foodbank, or Ukiah Plowshares.
Published in Ukiah Daily Journal from Nov. 17 to Nov. 19, 2010.