We share with great sorrow that Susan Rebecca Schepp, despite never having smoked, succumbed to a rare form of lung cancer, on September 24, 2023. She was 68 years old.
Born Susan Rebecca Heller on May 4, 1955, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, her father, Alvin, had hoped she would be born a day later to make her birthdate all fives. Her mother, Martha, states that Susan was the perfect baby. Sister of Robert, David, and Julia, and paternal half-sister of Sienna, she grew up in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She attended school with many other girls named Susan, which at the time, gave her some dissatisfaction. She received formal training and performed in piano and ballet, skipped a year in school, and explored Philadelphia with her siblings and many friends.
Susan spent her adolescence traveling between her parents’ homes across the country. She lived in a geodesic dome in a commune in New Mexico, attended 9th grade in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco, resided in Strafford, Vermont, Lyme and Etna, New Hampshire, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bancroft, Maine, and ultimately attended 6 different high schools. She met her first husband, Kevin Frank, in 1970. Kevin remarks that Susan allowed him to experience magic and mystery in life. As a testament to her brilliance, she excelled academically despite her ever-changing school experience and proceeded to attend University of Massachusetts and receive a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, with concentration in ceramics.
Susan and Kevin next moved to Rochester, NY, in 1978 to join the staff of the Rochester Zen Center. She traveled to Japan where she lived for 3 months and studied pottery and Zen Buddhism. During her early years in Rochester, she studied Computer Science at RIT, and was among those who established and expanded the Genesee Co-Op Pottery, the Springwater Meditation Center, and Mostly Clay Inc. She taught many ceramics students in the 1980s, and sold thousands of her hand-thrown functional porcelain pottery pieces to appreciators of fine craft.
She met Chris at a party in 1986, and he became her partner and then devoted husband for nearly 37 years. The two moved to Marion, NY, where Susan continued her successful pottery business out of their garage, and were married in 1989 at the St. Paul Exempt Firemen’s Club. They welcomed their only child, Celeste, in August, 1991.
Susan and Chris both worked as self-employed artists until 1995, at which point Susan pursued a Master’s degree in Education from Nazareth College. She put this degree to great use, and went on to teach hundreds of middle school students at Williamson, Cobblestone, Harley, Hillel, Urban Choice, Brighton, West Irondequoit, and other schools in and around the city of Rochester. She was a loving mother in law to Celeste’s first husband, Louis, and particularly enjoyed their summer trips to Cape Cod.
Never fully retiring, and constantly learning and teaching others, Susan worked for the NIH Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health study, EdMetric Assessments, Westat, and on other education-related projects. She began giving talks and leading meditation retreats at Springwater Center in 2015. She enjoyed many hobbies including expert-level knitting, cooking, hiking, and gardening. She nearly never lost a Scrabble game, and had an incredibly high IQ, but passed it off humbly as being explained solely by her profession as a teacher.
She and her son in law, Emmett, shared a love of culinary arts and swapped amusing stories of their teaching experiences. She enjoyed seeing movies at the Little Theater and the RPO with her mother, and many live music shows with her husband. Maintaining a close relationship with her daughter was probably the most fulfilling joy of her life.
Susan was a kind and understanding daughter, wife, mother, and friend. She will be sadly missed by many for her humble, quiet, decent, and beautiful ways. Her desire to understand the human condition resulted in a person of rare depth of insight and uncommon patience.
Susan is survived by her mother, Martha Heller, brother, Robert Heller, sister, Julia Payne-Lewis, half-sister, Sienna Wildwind, first husband, Kevin Frank, husband, Christopher Schepp, many sisters and brothers in law, daughter, Celeste Schepp Wyman, numerous nieces and nephews, best friend, Janet Marshall, and son in law, Emmett Lyons Wyman. She left behind too many great friends to name in entirety, but notably including, Angela Kimberk, Hardy Kornfeld, Deb McAllister, Susan McDuffy, Nancy Miller, Sandra Gonzalez, Joyce Landau, and Evelyn Christopher.
Susan is predeceased by her brother, David Heller, father, Alvin Heller, step-father, Charles Jaffe, father and mother in law, James and Catherine Schepp, meditation teacher, Toni Packer, and first son in law, Louis D’Amanda III.
Family and friends of Susan will gather to remember her from 2-5PM on November 19, 2023, at the St. Paul Exempt Firemen’s Club in West Irondequoit.