Susan, age 67, was different from anyone you ever met. There was no stopping her skills, and ever present smile. She passed away peacefully from natural causes in the very early morning hours of July 10 in her home, seven miles east of Monticello.
She was born in Quincy, CA, a small town in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe on November 17, 1947.
Her parents met while serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.
Her mother, Alice Rowe, was a WAC specializing in military coding in Petaluma, CA. Her father, Merlin Taylor, was serving in Hawaii in the public relations department. They settled in Quincy, where both of Susan’s parents worked for the Post Office.
Susan was 12-years-old when the family moved back to her mother’s family vacation home in Malaga, NJ, an ideal place for a youngster because it had a waterfront to a decent sized lake in central New Jersey.
It was idyllic for summer swimming and winter ice skating, sports that Susan excelled in and enjoyed for the rest of her life.
Susan went to New Jersey’s Glassboro State Teachers College in 1965 for her bachelor’s degree, but also studied and lived in New York for additional class work opportunities.
Susan, her mother Alice, and grandmother attended numerous symphonic and Broadway productions in New York City and nearby Philadelphia.
She graduated with a bachelor’s teaching certification in communication and theatre. Teaching was not in her future however. In 1970, she returned to Quincy to care for an ailing father and renew old acquaintances.
During this time, Susan realized her attraction to the western United States and, with Quincy as her home base, she continued her travels in the west.
She spent a winter in Breckinridge, CO to ski. In the late 1970’s, she came into Moab from the north in the setting sun in one of those rare moments when the whole valley was bathed in that golden red glow created by the sun reflecting off the red rock cliffs that we all have seen. She knew that this was dé-jà vu and southeastern Utah was going to be her home.
She worked at numerous jobs in Moab, including waitressing, as a radio news broadcaster, and a jazz DJ at the local FM station, and eventually began working for Grand County Travel Council at the time that Grand County decided to go for big tourism because uranium was bankrupt.
Moab began seeking international media coverage to boost tourism by sponsoring hang gliding competition that required high risk recreation enthusiasts to leap off Dead Horse Point suspended by hang gliders.
When they landed, they were in San Juan County. Grand County had indeed made a giant leap into becoming a tourist destination and would make many more.
Life would take one more large change for Susan. Grand and San Juan counties were joined together to form the Canyonlands scenic region, and she met a co-worker named Victor Schafer, who was employed by San Juan County in a similar job promoting San Juan’s interest in bringing tourist dollars further south.
Over the next several years the two dated, lived together, and were married on August 6, 1983, in Monticello, UT.
Seeking new opportunities, the couple traveled around the western U.S. where Victor worked in industrial construction jobs, starting as a welder’s helper and a millwright apprentice in 1979, with The Industrial Company building Energy Fuels in Blanding, then to Tonapah, NV and on to Meeker, CO, where Susan again found herself working in radio broadcasting.
The construction jobs continued and Susan and Victor bought property seven miles east of Monticello, where they planned and began building their dream home.
Susan stayed in Monticello and watched the home front and worked at a variety of jobs, beginning with various clerical jobs, then as a medical coder at the San Juan Hospital, and eventually back to a job that fit more into her comfort zone, economic development, where most of her time was spent doing graphic art for promotional brochures and advertisements in numerous magazines.
Another of her responsibilities was to promote San Juan County at hunting, fishing, tourism, and travel venues to further increase tourism and revenue to San Juan County.
Susan and her husband enjoyed these shows because if he was available, he could buy an airplane ticket for himself and accompany her to new places, new cities, help her set up the show and assist in inviting visitors to experience the beauty of southern Utah and often coordinating with other regions to promote all of Utah.
This was enjoyable to Susan because she truly was enthralled with the constantly changing moods of the seasons and the relentlessly changing visual scenery of our red rock country.
She didn’t want to be a snowbird. She couldn’t imagine living anywhere but here. She retired from San Juan County in 2009.
Susan contained multitudes and was exceptional in every thing she did. A friend commented that she enjoyed their time together because “our conversations go in all sorts of directions. Even our disagreements were a source of pleasure, for she would not hesitate to tell me her thoughts. I learned so much from Susan, her ideas, her optimism, her way of seeing around corners that I’d missed or ignored.”
Susan liked to help people. She was a very honest person who earned the respect and admiration of everybody.
Her greatest attribute was that she was totally grounded and never attempted to be somebody that she wasn’t. She didn’t desire to be the center of attention, but when she spoke, people listened.
It was stated by one of her coworkers that her glass was always half full, that she was always looking for a way to make a bad situation better. Anytime someone voiced a problem to Susan, she could see through the problem and explain that there was a positive aspect to the dilemma, and suddenly one realized there was no problem at all, only opportunity.
Susan loved to read and do research, she was a gardener, a skier, a quilter, a swimmer, a homemaker, a photographer, and so much more.
She loved music and truly stopped to smell the flowers. She began taking piano lessons when she was 59-years-young and stayed with it. She also enjoyed doing graphic arts part time for San Juan County, the City of Monticello, even restaurant menus and funeral programs for anyone who asked.
She was active in the city and county, serving on the county library board and the city economic development board. If she was asked to write a grant for any project she was always willing.
There will never be another Susan Taylor, and the memory of her ever present smile and constant happiness will make us smile through the tears of losing her so suddenly and so early.
Unknown is the number of friends and strangers whose lives she touched in a very special way.
Susan is predeceased by her parents, Alice and Merlin Taylor. She is survived by her husband, Victor Schafer of Monticello; cousins in Millville, NJ, Mike and Judy Benfer, and Jerry and Rita Benfer; Monticello in-laws, Nila Schafer and her sons Russell and Trent, Gene Schafer’s son and daughter, Rhonda and Stan, and a dear friend, sister-in-law Darlene’s son Mike.
A time and date when they will schedule services to joyfully celebrate Susan’s life will be posted in the San Juan Record, tentatively scheduled for late August at the Southern Baptist church.
Card of thanks
I’ve never so totally appreciated the overwhelming love and warmth that we have received from our friends and the community of Monticello, and even old co-workers and acquaintances that we had in places from which we had departed when a job ended and when we retired.
I also needed to express my heartfelt thanks to the EMT’s, Michelle Sonderegger, Jeremy Hoggard, Jon Fellmeth; San Juan County deputies, Joe Harris and Jason Torgerson; San Juan Mortuary’s Danny Palmer and Zane Shumway. I know I’m missing several names that are lost in the fog of the event but thank you also.
I am particularly greatful and thankful to lifelong close friends and family that were always there for Susan and I, and helped me maintain during this difficult time.