Tribute to Susanne

Richard and Susanne Newby, Summer 2001


My sister Susanne was the greatest! We were both born in the depression years in the small town of Shoshone, Idaho. We were lucky compared to many kids at school back then-our dad had a real job and made the grand sum of $100 a month teaching science and coaching at the local high school.

I was shy and introverted, a real classic nerd-terrified of people, of competition, and of sports. My outgoing sister, though two and a half years younger than I, was instantly popular wherever she went and she never, ever ever lacked friends. Sue was afraid of nothing and hung out with the boys at school with the same ease she socialized with all the girls. She won every argument and every fight and always had everyone on her side-so I gave up trying to compete with her at an early age.

When we were about 10 and 12 our dad was drafted into the Navy and our mother, Audrey, took Sue and I to live with her parents in Chula Vista down by San Diego. When our mother died two years later of kidney disease--which was then untreatable--Sue moved back to Idaho to live with Dad where she finished high school and college. I stayed in California through San Diego State and Stanford then went to work in a science research lab. So my dear sister and I did not grow up especially close to one another geographically.

My own lifelong interest in science was really part of my restless desire to discover the meaning of life. Finally at the age of 30--after exhausting all the other options I could find--I discovered the Bible and became a follower of Jesus Christ in a small Baptist Church in Northern California. At this point in my life, Dad was pleased and Susanne was obviously more than curious and she started going to church.

In 1980, our dad fell down some basement stairs back home in Twin Falls, Idaho. Sue and I went to be with him at once, though it was immediately clear he would not survive. This was the first time in many years Sue and I had talked in depth. That week we talked about everything under the sun, we met dad's friends and arranged a burial for Dolph under a great old weeping willow tree. Then Sue and I drove home to California in dad's old Chevvy, talking religion all the way. For my sister this was a spiritual milestone in her life--during that week she opened her heart to Jesus Christ. Thus she returned home to Orange County excited that her faith now had substance and real meaning. As you may already know, my sister Susanne never did anything half-way and it was not a surprise to me to find that she was soon immersed in Bible studies all over Orange County. Next thing I knew she was off to see Israel with Pastor Chuck Smith.

Two years ago Susanne phoned to ask me to pray for her because of her doctor's concern that she might have cancer. I prayed diligently for her of course, but at the time I had a real sense God wanted her around awhile longer. Though the past two years were sometimes very difficult for my dear sister, her faith in God grew by leaps and bounds. Our entire family has wonderful memories of the special times we had with Sue before her cancer came back with a vengeance last spring.

Three weeks ago I was praying and reading Psalms to Susanne. As I started to read Psalm 100, she abruptly began reciting this Psalm from memory. I had forgotten, but she reminded me that at Thanksgiving dinner in 1944 our mom asked her to read a Psalm, and Number 100 was what she chose. Here it is:

The 100th Psalm

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him, bless his name!
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures for ever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

My sister had no guile, she was not in the least pretentious and never drew attention to herself. She had a great sense of humor and penetrating insight. She was wonderfully easy to talk to and to confide in. She was the best possible kind of listener and a friend to literally everyone she met. Everywhere she went, Susanne poured out life. I don't know how she did it, but she changed the ugly, the mundane, and the ordinary into the beautiful and the elegant. She was a very classy lady! Her artistic talents were irrepressible. Sue mastered everything she was interested in and the diversity of her interests was fantastic. Living real life to the hilt was so natural and effortless that often her family could not keep track of all the things she was into. We'll still be cataloging her art work, her antique collections, and her wide-ranging projects for a long time to come.

As we were planning this memorial service we all realized that all sorts of people we have never met would probably show up to honor such an amazing human being. Please make sure we all get to know you today, and please let us have your thoughts and memories in writing for us if you can.

Susanne Dolphin Newby is in heaven today with the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not have the slightest doubt that this is her present reality and not merely a religious myth or wishful thinking on our part. That makes today a real celebration. My wonderful sister loved God with all her heart. When her time came, she was eager to go home--and to wait for us there. She left us much sooner in life than any of us would have preferred, but when God called, she ready to go. Susanne left behind an incredible legacy and testimony of a life lived to the full. I am deeply grateful to the God of the universe for giving me such a fantastic sister, a soul-sister, a spiritual sister, and a great friend. I hope I don't have to wait too long to see her again. God bless you.

Lambert (Skip) Dolphin Jr.
January 7, 2002.

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