Susan Morton

Do not be deceived by her folksy, friendly demeanor, Susan Morton was a rebel, a punk, a radical, and a fierce defender of the underestimated. And she thrived in her time on Earth.

Sue was born on a farm in rural New York, the youngest of three sisters. Her family owned and managed an apple orchard, raised chickens and grew enough food to feed the family. In many ways, it was an idyllic place to grow up, with grandparents at home and the confidence that comes with being so self-reliant.

It also came with plenty of hardships; hot water had to be boiled on the stove for baths; going to school required walking a mile to the bus stop; and farm life presented constant stresses with non-stop work and potential crop failures. She learned to stay busy and make the most of things.

Tragically, at age 12, her kind and soft-spoken dad Richard died suddenly of a heart attack. Shocked and heartbroken, the family escaped for a week to Florida—“a place as foreign as they’d ever been”—to swim in the ocean and regroup. Even in that painful time, without knowing what lay ahead, she found a way to heal, and find a new path to continue on.

Her bond with older sisters Sara and Nancy became stronger than ever. But at four and five years older, they eventually moved out, and for a time it was just her, her dog Abe, and her mom Eleanor on the farm. Nevertheless, her 1960s teenage world continued expanding with older sister Nancy’s antiwar activism, artistic dreams, and bouts of minor rebellion.

She endured high school; worked in a lab sterilizing microscope slides; then at a mafia-run nursing home; eventually making her way west to California for a fresh start.

After a couple of years there, she migrated north and landed on Bainbridge Island to start a family when tragedy struck again. Her mentor and big sister Nancy died in a canoeing accident. In the face of unimaginable pain & grief, somehow she chose to begin living her life as she saw it. In a gut-wrenching essay about this experience, she closes with this poignant insight:

“For if I saw only the lack of her being there, she would add nothing to my life. She was still with me, as she always had been. No matter when or how we see them, family lives within us.”

And so she pursued a career in apparel design, pattern drafting and all things fabric. She ran the Emerald City Marathon in 1983. She started a children’s clothing business, “So Big!”, nurtured friendships, made things with her hands, and grew bountiful gardens. She lived with an open heart and demonstrated that the purpose of life is to love the ones around you, including yourself.

Later on, as kids grew up and relationships changed, she went back to school and earned a degree in psychology from Seattle University. After a few years of social work at the YWCA in Bremerton, she returned to her first love—fabric—and started a series of small businesses: aprons & fine art at a small Port Gamble shop, foraging bags & totes at the local farmers market, and a renowned upholstery business, a legacy that lives on cushioning some of the finest butts in the world.

Through each season of life, she remained curious, youthful and willing to grow. She walked across England with her husband Thomas, persisting through a blister that would have doomed most of us, tossing a symbolic rock from one coast into the sea of the other. And she pursued smaller goals: daily embroideries, regular meditation, she’d been accepted to an artist residency.

Sue loved her pickup truck, Patti Smith, mint chip ice cream, and playing with kids. She’d chop wood, dig for clams, sew her own clothes, and willingly set off for adventures without a plan, but enough trust in herself to find the way. She believed in a 4-day work week, women’s power, and occasionally breaking the law.

As Nana, she got down on the floor to play with the grandkids, laughed at their jokes, brought the stuffed animals to life, and showed all of us how to be in the moment with a child, without forethought of grief. To be greeted with her warm smile, to hear her laugh at your jokes, feed you something simple and delicious — those moments made you feel truly loved. She lived for them and used them to magnify the best parts of being alive together in this world.

Born in Wappingers Falls, NY in August of 1955, she lived to the fullest for over 68 years.

Susan Morton died of cancer on March 29, 2024, at her home on Bainbridge Island, in her beloved’s arms, “curious to find out what’s next”.

She is preceded in death by her father Richard (1967), sister Nancy (1980), and mother Eleanor (2008).

She leaves behind a world of people who loved her dearly, her husband Thomas (stepson Logan); sister Sara (Ron, nephews Alan, Aaron); son Seamus (Liz, grandson Julian), daughter Lauren (Dean, grandsons Sawyer, Francis), former husband Steve (Mary), and Winnie, her last orange cat in a long line of beloved pets (Abe, Clarence, Ernie, Bert, Mittens, Sylvia, Bulldog, Casey, Lucy, Gus, Rosemary, Olivia).

Memorial services for her community will be held on June 1, 2024 at 1 pm at Grace Church (8595 Day Rd NE, Bainbridge Island, WA). All are welcome. Those who wish are invited to donate to YWCA of Kitsap County, Orein Arts Residency, or their favorite charity in memory of Susan. Arrangements entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island, WA