MADISON—Susan Johnson Hadler of Madison, Wis. and Washington, D.C. died on July 18, 2019. She was 74 years old.
Susan was born January 24,1945 in Oshkosh, Wis., the daughter of David Selby Johnson, Jr. and Margery Laughlin. She attended High School in Neenah, Wis., received her B.S. from U. Wisconsin-Madison, and her MA and PhD from U. Maryland. She married Jack Hadler in 1967 and they had two children, Jacques, in 1969, and Sarah, in 1971. From 1975- 1978, the Hadler family lived in Tanzania, East Africa, at rural St. Philips Theological College, where Jack taught, and Susan also taught and worked with local women. Susan then spent most of the rest of her adult life in the Washington, D.C. area, where she worked as a psychotherapist and as a writer. She wrote articles for psych conferences, articles for the Washingtonian, Reader’s Digest, and The Mindfulness Bell, appeared in the Ancestor series on PBS, and published two books. Co-author, with Ann Bennett Mix, of Lost in the Victory, a book that broke the silence surrounding the mention of fathers who died in WWII and how their deaths affected their children (including herself), she also served as one of the seven founders of AWON (American WWII Orphans Network). Her second book, The Beauty of What Remains, told the story of her quest to find out who the missing people in her family were (her father and her mother’s two estranged sisters) and what happened to them. During the 1990s, while Susan was deeply involved in the search for her father, she became drawn to Buddhism and began a rich practice that she would continue for the rest of her life. Her current writing project was a biography of Paul Selby, a great-great-grandfather, who was newspaper editor of several Illinois anti-slavery newspapers and a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s. This work was interrupted by her death from pneumonia in Madison, Wis., surrounded by family and friends.
This past spring of 2019, as part of her Buddhist practice, Susan began preparing for the eventual dying process, and wrote the following reflections on her life:
What I want to be remembered for:
—That’s up to those still alive!
—Listening, understanding, healing, caring, connecting have been important to me.
—Finding my father and Elinor and Dorothy was deeply meaningful and healing.
—Having the chance to help people understand themselves more clearly and grow.
Most important thing I’ve done in life:
—Raising two beautiful children into mature adulthood.
—Living and loving and growing steadily with Jack.
—Finding my father, Dorothy and Elinor.
Hope others learn from me:
—Live life to the fullest, continue to learn and grow, recognize your true wonderful nature
Life has taught me these lessons:
—Staying aware and open to and following and staying with what calls me has led me where I’ve needed to go.
—With solid support, I’ve dived into the pain and sorrow that presented itself in my life and found deeper connection and love.
—Being alive is an amazing adventure!
—Love exists even after death.
Her living life to the fullest included spending time with family and friends, going to movies with Jack, knitting, practicing Chinese brush painting, book binding, playing the flute, travelling, taking walks and drinking chai tea.
She is survived by her beloved husband of 52 years, the Reverend Jacques B. Hadler Jr., of Washington, D.C. And by their two children (and their spouses), Jacques C. Hadler (Rachel Nelson) of Moab, Utah, and Sarah J. Hadler (Alex Hadley) of Santa Rosa, Calif. Also by three grandchildren, Sonora Belle, Sylvester, and Sadie May.
The family is grateful for the care she received from the ICU staff at Meriter Hospital and the long term acute care staff at Select Specialty Hospital, both in Madison. And for the support and companionship of the Tergar Meditation Community of Madison.
In lieu of flowers, Susan requested contributions to Tergar Meditation Community of Madison; and SisterMentors of D.C.
A memorial and burial service will be held in the Virginia Theological Seminary Chapel, Alexandria, Va. on September 7 at 1:30 p.m. with burial to follow in the VTS cemetery.