Margaret Derthick

Obituary of Margaret Susan Derthick

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Margaret Susan Miller Derthick, the eldest child and only daughter of Carter Miller and Martha Franks, was born on Oct 11, 1931 in Asheville, NC. Susan passed away peacefully in Boulder, CO on March 8, 2022, at the age of 90. In childhood, Susan endured the deprivations of the Great Depression and the Second World War. In her teens, she suffered family tragedy. Remarkably, Susan walked away with a sunny smile and a keen sense of purpose that she maintained throughout her life. Life happened fast back then. Susan graduated from Knoxville High in 1949, married love-of-her-life Lawrence Derthick in 1951, graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1953, and spent the next two years teaching second grade… until she was terminated for the reason of being pregnant. By 28, she was the mother of three. It’s impossible to write a memorial for Susan that does not include Lawrence. They met at First Christian Church of Knoxville, while attending the University of Tennessee. Susan, a freshman, was gregarious, the Sweetheart of Phi Sigma fraternity. Lawrence, a senior, was a Boy Scout (actually, an Eagle Scout with 3 Palms), who possessed a more reserved charm. The attraction was immediate. Susan and Lawrence were partners and best friends for the next 40 years. They were committed to Family, Church, Public Schools and Community Service. From 1955 to 1967, Susan was a full-time mom of three, during a period when the family moved four times. There was no disposable diapers, air conditioning or day care for children younger than kindergarten-age. Later in life, Susan told affectionate stories of that period, but she never failed to tell her children: “Taking care of you by myself for 12 years was the hardest job I’ve ever done.” Susan was a good and engaged mom. She was always there. Cub Scout and Brownie Scout leader. Sunday School teacher. PTA mom. The mom who organized Easter Egg hunts and Halloween parties. The one who baked cupcakes. Their children remember Susan and Lawrence as more conservative than the parents of their friends. “They ran a ‘Yes sir/No ma’am, Please/Thank you, May I be excused?’ household.” Church on Sunday. Family dinner was a 5:30, preceded by a prayer. No cigarettes, alcohol or bad language. At home, Susan was in-charge. She prepared all the meals, did all the housework and, as she playfully complained, “spent half my time in the car.” She drove her children and their friends everywhere: baseball games, band practice, tennis tournaments, dates and dances. “Mom complained, but she liked driving us around, she wanted to be part of our lives.” In 1967, the family moved to Morgantown, WV, where they lived for a decade, throughout the children’s elementary, junior high and high school years. With all children in school, Susan was excited to get back into the classroom. Unfortunately, she wasn’t eligible for the vast majority of jobs for which she was qualified: Lawrence was the school superintendent, as such Susan wasn’t allowed to teach in the public schools – a situation that didn’t change for the next 25 years. Undaunted, Susan taught at church schools -- and loved it. The children remember Mom telling stories about ‘her kids’ at the dinner table every single night – for years. “It was like a television series, a new season starting in September, but with different characters.” During this period, Susan returned to school and earned an MA, Education, from WVU in 1972. Later, she did further graduate studies at the University of South Carolina and The Citadel. In 1978, Lawrence and Susan returned to their beloved South. Charleston, SC. Lawrence as school superintendent. Susan, in the best job of her life, as Director of the Early Childhood Development Center at the College of Charleston. The ECDC is/was a pre-school for children 18 months to six years, that also served as an observation station for college students in the fields of Education, Nursing and Psychology. Susan enjoyed the practical side of running a pre-school, working with the children, teachers and parents. She also liked the academic end of the job, observing childhood behavior, and mentoring college students. In 1982, Lawrence and Susan moved to the place where they felt most at home -- Sumter, SC. Lawrence was the superintendent of schools. Susan was the assistant principal at Alcolu Elementary School in Clarendon County (1982-1986), and then a second-grade teacher at Shaw Air Force Base (1986-1994). They immersed themselves in the familiar Work/Church/Civil Society pattern, and discovered a perfect-fit community. They made close friends at work, Trinity United Methodist Church, Rotary and PEO. Lawrence died in 1992. Alone for the first time since she was 19, Susan was overwhelmed with grief, loss, and the demands of daily life, but with the help of friends, she recovered and re-built her life. It didn’t sparkle as brightly, but Susan found the warmth of other suns. She lived in Sumter for another 15 years, kept old friends, made new ones, and immersed herself in the community. Trinity United Methodist Church, PEO Sisterhood, Sumter County Library, Salvation Army, Sumter Historical Society and Sumter Art Association. In 2007, Susan moved to Boulder, CO. She wanted to be near Jan, and to help raise her Granddaughter, Nadia. ‘Helping Others’ had always been Susan’s love language, and in Boulder she expressed that through hundreds of school pick-ups, meals together and shopping trips. Susan’s community life was not as rich as in Sumter, but she remained active in church and the PEO sisterhood. Her natural-helper skills were used more often in non-formal settings, often assisting the elderly. Throughout her 80s, Susan once again served as Driver, taking her friends to church, medical appointments and shopping excursions in her immaculate white Camry. Susan is preceded in death by her parents, and by her husband Lawrence. She is survived by brothers Carter, David and Bill; her children Larry, David and Jan; her grandchildren and great grandchildren; and the friends Susan touched throughout her life. Shortly after her passing, a memorial was held in Boulder, CO. A second memorial service will take place at 11:00 on Nov 5 at Trinity United Methodist Church. Immediately following the service, Susan will be buried next to Lawrence at Sumter Cemetery. Online condolences may be made at Elmore Hill McCreight Funeral Home & Crematory, 221 Broad Street, Sumter, is in charge of the arrangements (803) 775-9386
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