In Memory

Susan Schurman (Witte)

Written and Submitted by Peter Bono:

Deceased Classmate: Susan Schurman
Date Of Birth: July-26-1946
Date Deceased: April-9-2016
Age at Death: 69
Cause of Death: Chronic Pulmonary Disorder
Classmate City: North Quincy
Classmate State: MA
Classmate Country: USA
Was a Veteran: No
Survived By: 1 Aunt, 1 "Honorary" Sister, and 4 Cousins. Both parents are deceased.

NORTH QUINCY, MA - Dr. Susan Claire Schurman, 69, passed away Saturday, April 9, 2016 while under Hospice care at her home after a long battle with a chronic pulmonary disorder. She was born July 26, 1946 in Quincy, MA, the daughter of Erich R. and Gloria J. Schurman, both of whom predeceased her. Dr. Schurman had exceptional intelligence and was always expanding her knowledge through reading, studying, teaching, and life experiences. She graduated among the top of her class at North Quincy High School, earned her B.A. in English Literature at Boston University, received her M.A. in English Literature at Brynn Marr College in Pennsylvania, and acquired her Ph.D. in English Literature at a university in Germany where all classes were taught in German. Dr. Schurman was a member of Mensa International, an organization for people with a high IQ representing the top 2% of the population. Susan’s passions were the arts including theatre, literature, dance, and music. In July 1964, she attended Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot Play at the Theatre Company of Boston. This thought-provoking existential drama, with actors Robert Duval and Dustin Hoffman, motivated Susan to academically pursue her love of literature. This resulted in her doctoral thesis of Samuel Beckett’s works, followed by a career in teaching English literature in Germany and California. Susan was always very athletic and trained in ballet as an adult, which became the foundation of her varied theatrical dance performances. She loved listening to all types of music, and had a talent for interpreting music in her dancing. Susan loved cultural diversity, not only in her study of the arts, but in her personal life. She enjoyed attending classes at Boston University and living on campus, as it exposed her to international students, their different beliefs, new ways of thinking, and creative problem solving. She studied world religions, embraced Tibetan Buddhism, and found solace in its teaching that in death the spirit remains and is reborn with a new body and a new life. She followed her own German heritage by living in Germany for twenty years with her German husband, whom she later divorced. Susan then lived and continued working as a university professor in Los Angeles, California for seven years, and enjoyed its lifestyle and diverse population. In 1994, she survived California’s major earthquake, but contracted COPD by inhaling its air pollutants which progressively damaged her lungs. Just before her father’s death in 1999, Susan returned to her home in North Quincy, MA to comfort her mother. There, Susan’s health worsened with the onset of debilitating fibromyalgia which, along with her pulmonary disorder, kept her virtually housebound at home for 15 years. Susan’s mother cared for her until she died in November 2015. Even with two chronic diseases, Susan never stopped studying and teaching. She took online courses, became a certified Life Coach, and improved the lives of her clients through phone and home office consultations. Once Susan set a goal for herself, she never gave up until she accomplished it. Persistence was one of Susan’s best traits, along with her great compassion for all humanity, including wildlife and family pets, especially cats. Her heart was as big as her intellect, always saddened by man’s inhumanity to man, his environment, and all of God’s creatures. This often motivated her to champion many causes including civil rights, women’s rights, and animal rights. Susan is survived by her aunt, Elva M. Connors of Dandridge, Tenn.; her “honorary” sister, Terri E. Ennis of Marshfield; her cousin, Debora Lindstrom of Boca Raton, Fla.; her cousin, William R. Connors of Mashpee; her cousin, Megan V. Gagneur of Phoenix, Ariz.; her cousin, William Lippolis of Boca Raton, Fla., and her dear Persian cat Lotus Blossom. Donations may be made in Susan’s name to the Quincy Animal Shelter, 56 Broad Street, Quincy, MA 02169, This is a no kill shelter that would welcome your support, and honor Susan’s adoption of her beloved cats. Online condolences may be shared at


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04/11/16 11:00 AM #1    

Mary E. Hay

So sad to hear of Sue's passing.  We spent many a class together.  I always admired her ability to learn German, such a difficult language!  I was not surprised when she moved to Germany to immerse herself in German culture.  I always knew she would have a successful career.  Very sad that illnesses cut her life so short.  May she Rest in Peace.

04/11/16 07:14 PM #2    

Rosemary Palm (Boyer)

I remember Sue from early elementary on.  She always was a class act, a sweet presence in a sometimes hazardous world.  She contributed so much to her friends, her classmates and all of those with whom she connected.  I've long ago lost touch with her.  I was thrilled with how her life journey has led her.  From reading the loving tribute that was written about her, I am very proud to have known her for just a little time.  I'm sorry that she had so many health problems the last two decades of her life.   May she rest in peace in God's loving arms with her parents. 


04/12/16 06:01 PM #3    

Peter F. Bono

Susan's memorial service will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at the Keohane Funeral Home, 785 Hancock Street in North Quincy (617-773-3551).  Please come if you can.  My wife, Beverly, and I will be there to pay our respects, along with some of her family members and friends.  Susan was my dear friend for over 50 years. and I'll miss her dearly.  We stayed in touch and always picked up where we left off, as easily as if days had passed instead of years.  Take care, classmates. 

04/13/16 09:24 AM #4    

Virginia Garland

How lucky we are to have had Susan as a classmate, she was so beautiful inside and out. Rosemary put it so nicely, we are thrilled with her life's journey.  Susan was so brilliant and also loving and compassionate for her animal companions and all the friends and family members who surrounded her and cared for her.  I greatly appreciate it that Peter Bono and his wife were able to stay in touch  with Susan as dear friends over the years, and to pay respects at her memorial next week.  Thank you Susan, for making us proud for you to have been our classmate, you are very much missed 

04/16/16 10:28 PM #5    

C. Stephen Bressler

I will always remember Susan as the young, vivacious, smart, athletic, and loving person she was when she and I were boyfriend/girlfriend so many years ago.  Our relationship started when we were taking lifesaving classes taught by Ginny Garland's wonderful mom.  Years later, Susan and her husband and my wife Linda and I met for dinner and our respective spouses sat and listened as Susan and I fondly reminisced.  Susan and I lost contact after that dinner in Brookline.  I was not aware that her marriage had ended or that her health had deteriorated.  She deserved better.  Susan was such a gifted person.  Her passing is tragic.  I feel bad that I will not be able to attend Susan's funeral service.  I am looking after my wife, who is recuperating after having had a stroke.

04/20/16 09:22 AM #6    

Peter F. Bono

It was my honor to deliver Susan's Eulogy yesterday at her memorial service.  For those of you who missed it, here's a copy of it:

Susan C. Schurman Eulogy (4-19-16)

Susan and I have been friends for over 50 years.  She’s a dear friend and I’ll miss her dearly.  I’d like to share some of my memories of her with you.  My mother died when I was 13 years old, and the Schurmans took me in.  We often had family dinners together, at the insistence of Susan’s mother who treated me like her own son, which she never had.  But that was Gloria – always caring and always doing nice things for other people.  Susan’s father Erich reminded me of my own father – very strict and demanding of my respect, which I always gave him, for Susan’s sake.

Susan and I graduated from North Quincy High School in 1964, but I was never in any of her classes because they were reserved for only the most intelligent students, of which I was not.  However, we did share one class at Boston University as college freshmen – English Literature 101 – where we read the classics, and wrote in-depth book reports on them, analyzing their themes and interpreting their many metaphors and numerous nuances.  Susan and I studied together, discussing each book’s meaning, and then wrote our own reports.  She always got As on her papers, while I struggled to get Bs.  Susan was very good in this class - very much in her element, so it didn’t surprise me that her chosen career would be a Professor of English Literature.

Susan loved to read.  Her mother used to tell me that as long as Susan had her books and her computer, she was happy.  Susan also loved to see theatrical performances of classic literature, so we often went to see plays in Boston.  In July of ’64 we saw Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Theatre Company of Boston.  This existential drama starred a young Robert Duval as Lucky, a slave, and a young Dustin Hoffman as Pozzo, Lucky’s Master.  Susan loved it, so much so that her English Literature doctoral thesis was an extensive analysis of Samuel Beckett’s works. 

I re-read Waiting for Godot earlier this year, and I still don’t understand much beyond the general theme of two friends, Didi and Gogo, waiting for Godot who represented God.  The fifth and final character in the play is a boy who works for Godot, and delivers messages from him that surely he will come to meet Didi and Gogo, if not today, tomorrow, but Godot never comes.

Susan loved music.  We played records together – yes, the old vinyl ones that you play on a turntable.  We danced at North Quincy High’s version of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and we attended esplanade concerts on the banks of the Charles River - especially on July 4th at the Boston Pops Fireworks spectacular.  Susan’s favorite singer was Barbara Streisand, and mine too.  I still have an extensive collection of Barbara Streisand albums.  No one sings the way she does.

Susan’s heart was as big as her intellect, always saddened by man’s inhumanity to man, his environment, and all of God’s creatures.  In the 60s, Susan championed civil rights led by Martin Luther King and supported by President John F. Kennedy and his Attorney General brother Robert F. Kennedy.  Susan was devastated by the assassinations of these three men, so much so that she asked me to go with her to Bobby Kennedy’s wake on June 8th, 1968 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  We took the long hot train ride there from Boston, and waited for hours in a line of mourners 25 blocks long to pass by RFK’s coffin and pay our respects.  As usual, we accomplished our mission.  Once Susan set a goal for herself, she never gave up until she accomplished it - never.

Susan also never stopped studying and learning on her own.  Her intellect was so far beyond mine that I never thought I could be her mentor on anything, but there was this one time, 14 years ago, when she asked me to teach her everything I knew about marketing.  She had taken online courses to become a certified Life Coach, and wanted to market her new home consulting business.  So I gladly wrote her a customized marketing 101 guide, based on my own business experiences.  She loved reading my stories, discussing them with me, and applying my real-world tips to her own business.  Susan had actually learned something from me, and she enjoyed it, almost as much as our English Literature 101 class at B.U.

Susan and I laughed a lot, and laughter, as they say, is good for the soul and is the best medicine.  The last time we laughed was over the phone, five days before she died.  Here I was depressed by her failing condition, trying to cheer her up, and she, the dying patient, made me laugh.  She asked me what I thought about the presidential candidates, and my first instinct was to laugh out loud in disgust.  Susan caught on and immediately and said: “See, I knew I could make you laugh.  You would think this country could come up with much better candidates.”  She certainly is right about that.

One of Susan’s favorite books was The Prophet by Lebanese philosopher and writer Kahlil (Kah-leel) Gibran (Gee-bran).  It was published in 1923, later translated into 40 different languages, and has never gone out of print.  Here are some excerpts from The Prophet’s definition of friendship.  It best defines the dear friendship that Susan and I share.

         Your friend is your needs answered

        She is your field which you sow with love

and reap with thanksgiving.



        And she is your board and your fireside.

        For you come to her with your hunger,

and you seek her for peace.


        And in the sweetness of friendship, let

there be laughter and sharing of pleasures.

        For in the dew of little things, the heart

finds its morning and is refreshed.


        When you part from your friend, you

grieve not;

        For that which you love most in her may

be clearer in her absence, as the mountain

to the climber is clearer from the plain.


Susan researched all the religions in the world, and chose one that fit her lifestyle, her beliefs, and her intellect.  She passionately embraced Tibetan Buddhism, and it fit her perfectly.  This I know – it’s as complicated as Waiting for Godot, but here’s my simplistic understanding of it, as it relates to my dear friend’s beliefs.  There is life after life for Susan now.  Yes, I said that right – life after life for her now.  Her body died on April 9th, but on May 28th she’ll be reborn with a new body and a new life.  In that 49 day interval between Susan’s death and her rebirth, her soul is on a journey of daunting discovery, called Bardo.  Bardo for Buddhists is something like Purgatory for Roman Catholics – a place where souls go for temporary punishment of their sins.  Of course, after Purgatory, Catholic souls go on to eternal heaven or hell, while after Bardo, Buddhist souls go on living another life, followed by an eternal number of lives.  To give you some idea of Susan’s Bardo, here’s an excerpt of a funeral prayer from the Tibetan Book of Death.


Oh you compassionate ones possessing the wisdom of understanding, the love of compassion, the power of acting, and of protecting in incomprehensible measure, one is passing through this world and leaving it behind.  No friends does she have, she is without defenders, without protectors and kinsmen.  The light of this world has set.  She goes from place to place, she enters darkness, she falls down a steep precipice, she enters a jungle of solitude, she is pursued by karmic forces, she goes into a vast silence, she is borne away on the great ocean, she is wafted on the wind of karma, she goes where there is no certainty, she is caught in the great conflict, she is obsessed by the great affecting spirit, she is awed and terrified by the messengers of death.  Existing karma has put her into repeated existence and no strength does she have, although the time has come to go alone. 

Oh you compassionate ones, defend who is defenseless, protect who is unprotected, be her kinsman, protect her from the suffering in the depression of the Bardo, turn her from the storm wind of karma, turn her from the great awe and terror of the Lords of Death, liberate her from the long narrow way of the Bardo. 

Obtaining for oneself a body, let it be one that liberates all without allowing karma to follow.  Let it be the merits which follow and be multiplied.

Wherever one is born, there and then, let it be that one meets the conquerors, the Peaceful and the Wrathful. With the ability to walk and talk at birth, May it come that one accomplishes the non-forgetting intellect and remember all ones past lives. 

Susan believed in reincarnation, and believed that she and I would meet again after her death.  What do I believe?  I believe if anyone can pull it off, it’s Susan because she has such a strong will, and as my Mother used to say, where there’s a will there’s a way. 

I also believe Susan has left me three signs:  First, she died on April 9th, 4-9 or 49 as in the 49 day interval between her death and rebirth called Bardo.  Second, Susan’s 49th day for rebirth falls on May 28th, which is my Great-Nephew’s birthday, a good day for Susan’s rebirth.  And third, my Great-Nephew’s name is Will, as in Susan’s soul Will transition from Bardo to a new life.  Three coincidences?  I think not, but then I’m rooting for Susan.

In closing, I’d like to try to comfort you and ease your grieving with a poem Susan inspired me to write.  I first wrote it in 2002 to comfort my Nieces and Nephews after their Mother, my Sister-in-Law, died.  Back then it was titled: “When Your Mother Dies.”  Last year, I sent the same poem to Susan after her Mother died.  Today for you, Susan’s family and friends, I’ve modified it a bit, and re-titled it “When a Dear Friend Dies.”

               When a dear friend dies,

               It first affects your eyes.

        A stare so rare,

        It turns all sights inside.


        Sights of her, just yesterday,

        Things you’d do, words you’d say.

        No, it can’t be so.

        She can’t be gone today!


        And that stare so rare,

        Reflects your deep despair.

        Too new, can’t be true,

        This daytime nightmare.


        Can’t cry now – too numb.

        No telling when tears will come.

        But your eyes soon cry.

        On their own, they run and run.



        When your dear friend dies,

        It first affects your eyes.

        Then your gut tightens up,

        And aches and pains inside.


        Time heals the pain, they say.

        But does it ever really go away?

        Does relief follow grief?

        Does the heartache go or stay?


        No matter how prepared are we,

        Heartache rules rationality.

        At first, it gets worse,

        Each memory hurts, painfully.


        So many times each day,

        Memories of her do play.

        Our mind isn’t kind,

        When thoughts cause pain that way.


        Months follow weeks of the same.

        Then over time, Slowly it came,

        A change in the pain,

        Great relief down memory lane.


        Thoughts of her get much better,

        Like reading an old love letter.

        A retreat once sweet,

        Is sweet again for you, forever!



        Time heals your pain, I’d say.

        Memories of hurt convert some way.

        Grief turns sweet,

        When thoughts of her do play.



        So, when your dear friend dies,

        Give yourself time to revive.

        ‘Cause relief follows grief,

        Then solace, not sorrow, thrives.


I love you Susan, and I’ll see you later.




04/21/16 12:36 PM #7    

Mary E. Hay

Very beautiful eulogy, Peter.  I'm glad Susan had you as a friend all these years.  RIP, Susan or rise again to face another adventure.

04/21/16 01:03 PM #8    

Rosemary Palm (Boyer)

Thank you, Peter, for that lovely eulogy.

04/27/16 02:34 PM #9    

Peter F. Bono

Thank you Mary, Rosemary, Virginia, and Steve for your personal remembrances and expressions of condolances for Susan Schurman.  I still can't believe she has passed on, but your kind thoughts and prayers do help me cope with the loss of our dear classmate and friend.  As Albert Schweitzer said: "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."  And Steve, I pray your wife's health improves.

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