Susan K. Black, 80

Susan Black

SWEDEN — Susan K. Black, 80, passed away peacefully on Friday, June 22, 2018, with her family at her side after an unexpected medical event.

If you met Sue Black, you liked her. She approached life and other people with an open mind and a sense of adventure that earned her a wide-ranging group of loyal friends from diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life. She was a goer and a doer, preferring to look forward and not worry too much about the past.

Her family was at the center of her life and she passed on her adventurous, inquisitive spirit to her children and grandchildren. She was truly a lifelong learner and tackled new activities with gusto and a sense of humor in every place she lived. Sue enthusiastically pursued her many and varied passions, always looking to connect with people and cultivate friendships rather than rack up accomplishments. She was a dedicated and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, as well as an avid sports fan. Hers was a full life, truly well-lived.

Sue was a first generation American born into the Swedish community of Rockford, Illinois, in 1937. Her mother was a Swedish immigrant and her father the son of Swedish immigrants. Her lifelong affinity for sports and the outdoors began in Rockford and she developed a versatility and toughness uncommon for girls of her generation. She often joined her father on fishing trips to Wisconsin, became an accomplished swimmer, and served as a bat girl for the Rockford Peaches, the all-woman baseball team that was immortalized in the 1992 movie “A League of Their Own.”

Organized sports were not open to girls when Sue was in high school so she settled for cheerleading, excelled in academics, and was elected Homecoming Queen. She also survived polio after an extended hospitalization. After high school, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1959 with a B.S. in medical technology. She formed her first connection with Maine in 1957 when her college roommate urged her to become a counselor at Camp Wyonegonic in Denmark. She fell in love with the Maine mountains and lakes and vowed that she would someday return here to live.

Upon graduating from Wisconsin, Sue married her high school sweetheart, fellow Badger and newly-commissioned Marine Corps 2nd Lieutenant Samuel Black, with whom she would share the remaining 59 years of her life. Over the course of Sam’s 21-year military career, Sue was the dedicated mother of their daughter Perri and son Andrew, as well as the rock of the family during Sam’s three year-long unaccompanied overseas tours, including one to Vietnam. She embraced the transient military lifestyle and enthusiastically joined new communities every place the family was stationed. She supported her children’s various interests and led them on many adventures, instilling in them an appreciation for books, education, nature, travel, different cultures, and sports.

But Sue was not a typical officer’s wife. She was an independent woman who pursued activities she truly enjoyed without inhibition. She was a competitive equestrienne, took up jogging before it was fashionable, and played on a woman’s softball team called the Hellcats. She became an avid birder, herbalist, historian, spinner, and weaver, and volunteered everywhere she lived, most notably as a Red Cross librarian serving wounded Marines at a hospital in Virginia. She also earned a Master’s of Library Science from the University of Rhode Island in 1976.

Sue first brought Sam to Maine in 1964 and he, too, fell in love with the state and together they vowed to move here after Sam retired from the Marines. In 1969 they solidified this dream by purchasing an old fixer-upper farmhouse on 40 acres in Sweden, Maine.

During the final years of Sam’s military career they lived in Rome, Italy and Stuttgart, Germany where Sue truly thrived. She worked as a librarian, explored ancient temples, early Christian monasteries, cathedrals, medieval music, Gregorian chants, Giotto frescos, and Renaissance art. She also led the family on shoestring budget trips around Europe, often to offbeat destinations.

July 1980 marked a complete transition. Sam retired from the Marines and they came back to the U.S. aboard the QE II, returning Sue to her “Swedish” roots and their beloved Bondegarden (Swedish for “farm”) in Sweden, Maine. While Sam renovated the farmhouse, Sue set up the SAD 72 elementary school library system and worked as a librarian at Lake Region High School, the Charlotte Hobbs Memorial Library in Lovell, the Bridgton Public Library, and the North Bridgton Public Library. Always the animal lover, Sue adopted numerous cats over the years and raised sheep, angora rabbits, chickens, and donkeys. Most recently she fed the opossums that took up residence under their barn during the winter.

Although content to finally have a permanent home in Maine, Sue continued to plan adventures abroad and saved up so she and Sam could travel to far-flung destinations such as Israel, Bhutan, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, Tierra Del Fuego, and Greenland. Eventually they would travel together to 45 countries on five continents.

Sue never stopped her education, both formal and informal. In 1994 she earned a Master’s of New England Studies from the University of Southern Maine. She was a longtime member of Senior College at Bridgton where she attended many classes on a wide variety of subjects. She also took and taught classes in weaving, spinning, and other fiber arts and crafts at fairs, festivals and workshops around the state.

Sue was always involved in some sort of organization and community service. She served the Town of Sweden in a variety of positions including selectman, sexton, election clerk, and ballot counter. She was a member of the Women’s Legislative Council of Maine. She worked at the Agricultural Hall at the Fryeburg Fair for 22 years, and volunteered in the office at Harvest Hills Animal Shelter. An avid birdwatcher since her teens, Sue was a FeederWatcher for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project FeederWatch and collected data for the project for 37 years. She also participated in the Audubon Society Christmas Bird count for a similar period of time. She was an active member in a number of local historical societies including Sweden, Bridgton, and Lovell, as well as the Maine State Historical Society and the Maine Old Cemetery Association. She was also involved in the Tai Chi Maine group that meets at the Bridgton Town Hall.

Sue was a longtime member of, and served in numerous capacities at the First Congregational Church in Bridgton. She recently became a member of the Sweden Community Church and was the treasurer of the Oxford Union Association of the Maine Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Becoming a grandmother was perhaps the greatest joy of her life, and she adored her grandchildren Aidan, who was born in 1996, and Lily, who arrived in 1999. Sue instantly became their biggest superfan and faithfully attended their sporting events and performances throughout the state from elementary school through college. As she did with her own son, Sue kept the scorebook for their baseball and softball games. She was especially thrilled by the athletic opportunities available to girls and young women today. Despite a few significant recent challenges, Sue succeeded in one of her primary goals this year: to attend Aidan’s graduation from Colby College and Lily’s from Greely High School.

Sue is survived by Sam, her husband of 59 years; her daughter Perri of Bridgton; her son Andrew and his wife Monica Bigley of Cumberland; and her grandchildren, Aidan and Lillian Black.

A memorial service to celebrate Sue’s life will be held on Sunday, July 1, at 2 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in Bridgton. Dress comfortably. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to: Harvest Hills Animal Shelter, 1389 Bridgton Rd., Fryeburg, ME 04037, or Sweden Food Pantry, 137 Bridgton Rd., Sweden, ME 04040. Online condolences may be expressed at www.chandlerfunerals.com

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