Death Notices, Local, Obituaries, Park Forest

Obituary: “Suzie” Nelda Suzanne Brown


Suzie Brown, (Nelda Suzie)
“Suzie” Nelda Suzanne Brown
June 5, 1931 – June 14, 2024

Suzie Brown (Nelda Suzanne) was born on June 5, 1931, in Harvey, Illinois, where her parents, Laura Alice Witters and Oscar Brown, raised her and her older sister LaVonne. Passionate about education and learning, Suzie flourished at Thornton Township High School, making life-long friends and pursuing her many interests.

She attended the University of Illinois at Navy Pier in Chicago for one year, spent the next year at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and worked. In 1951, she left school to marry James Stephen. That was followed by the birth of her two children, Lynn and Bruce.

To Park Forest in 1958

In 1958, she and Jim bought a house in Park Forest, a community Suzie cherished, where she lived for 57 years until 2015. During the 1960s, Suzie raised her young children and devoted herself to fighting for civil rights and farmworkers’ rights and opposing the Vietnam War.  She pursued her love of teaching at a Migrant Day Care center.

Becoming a Teacher

When Suzie’s children grew older, she returned to school at Purdue University Calumet, attending part-time for four years. She graduated in 1972 and began a long career as an elementary school classroom teacher, later becoming a reading specialist. She tutored many children and continued to be active in social justice causes such as women’s rights, reproductive rights, and environmental causes. In 1982, she and James Stephen divorced.

Suzie was curious about the world and was an avid traveler. She traveled to Scotland, Mexico, the Canadian Rockies, Hawaii, Alaska, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico (several times), France, Peru (Machu Pichu), and many U.S. national parks. She also traveled throughout the Midwest and mid-Atlantic states to research her family’s genealogy. 

Retirement in 1996

She retired in 1996 after 24 years of teaching but remained active until the last months of her life. Highlights include the League of Women Voters, the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Park Forest, organizing book clubs, participating in electoral campaigns, and recording the oral histories of dozens of World War II veterans, an activity she pursued from 2001 until the last few years of her life. She was also a longtime, active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Park Forest and Eugene, Oregon. In 2008, she was inducted into the Park Forest Hall of Fame.

Throughout her life, Suzie enjoyed attending cultural events, including theatre and the symphony. She was a frequent visitor to art, history, and science museums. She loved to exercise and cared about staying in good physical shape.

Move to Eugene, Oregon

In September 2015, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Suzie moved to Eugene, Oregon, home to her daughter. She lived at Cascade Manor in Eugene until her passing. In the spring of 2016, she met Bill Rodgers in a Cascade Manor Parkinson’s support group, and they married in December of that year. Bill brought great joy to Suzie, and they shared many happy moments in Eugene with children and grandchildren. Bill’s death in March of 2024 was very hard for Suzie, but she was devoted to continuing to live a full life.

Suzie was devoted to her children, grandchildren, and a wide circle of friends throughout her lifetime. They describe her as intelligent, gracious, curious, sociable, and passionate about social justice causes. She was a wide-ranging reader and an outstanding educator.

Suzie Brown departed this earth on June 14, 2024. She is survived by her daughter Lynn Stephen, her spouse, Ellen Herman, and their two children, Gabriel Yechiel Stephen-Herman and Jose Angel Stephen-Herman; her son Bruce Stephen, his partner, Katherine McVicker, and his three children, Benjamin Goldman Stephen, Jordan Goldman Stephen, and Daniel Goldman Stephen. She also leaves her older sister, LaVonne Ruoff.

Arrangements in the care of Smith-Lund-Mills Funeral Chapel.

Instead of flowers, please send donations to the Parkinson’s Foundation, www.parkinson.org:

Parkinson’s Foundation
200 SE 1st Street
Suite 800
Miami, FL 33131

or

Respond Now
439 Emerald Ave
Chicago Heights, IL 60411
(708) 755-4357.

Respond Now works to alleviate hunger and prevent homelessness for those most at risk.

https://respondnow.org

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