Helene Susman (1920-2024)

April 25, 2024

With deep sadness, I write of the passing of Helene Susman, widow of Bill, at the age 103.

She did not go to Spain with the Lincolns nor held a position with the VALB or ALBA, but to me and many others she was a founder of our small organization and a kindred spirit.

According to her daughter Susan, Helene, née Shemel, settled in Long Island with her family in 1959 and was known to her peers as a terrific tennis and bridge player, and to her students as a guitar teacher and confidante. She and Bill were active members of the Great Neck Forum, which brought progressive speakers to large audiences.

In her later working years, Helene became an assistant film editor for the renowned documentarian Barbara Kopple, working on Harlan County, USA and American Dream. (Barbara has recently joined ALBA’s Honorary Board.)

When I joined the ALBA Board thirty-some years ago, Helene greeted our meetings at her home with breakfast coffee and bagels, a little later lunch, and often a bed to sleep.

She did not participate in the formal meetings, but shared her cogent opinions about ALBA policies and programs.

She remained a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights, and inspirational to those who were then the second generation of ALBA members.

She is survived by her daughter, Susan, son Paul, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.