Suzanne Elizabeth Carrick Brownell McLean
CALUMET — Suzanne McLean, 102, died peacefully at home on October 26, 2019 with her kitty purring by her side.
Suzanne Elizabeth Carrick Brownell McLean was from the sea. She loved sea otters, penguins, and creatures of sea, air, and earth. Born in Fresno, Calif. on June 17, 1917, she was ever grateful for her family’s early move to Carmel. She was raised in a loving, extended family of characters near the Pacific and enjoyed outdoor adventures in the California sun. Golfing with her father, “Doc”, and younger brother, “Bud”, evening family walks in the Carmel mist, flying in an open cockpit biplane with the young pilot, Erna Bach to and from San Francisco, trips to the valley to spend time with her doting Grandmother Nana Frye, playing on the Carmel beach with her girlfriends, enjoying cookouts with her humorous uncles, and winning a dance contest at the Del Monte Hotel were favorite memories.
Her father believed girls should learn golf, bridge, literature, history, and continue the Brownell tradition of education. As the family bagpiper, Bob Hagen, said, “she radiated intelligence.” She completed her undergraduate education at USC and graduate work at UC Berkely. She then worked as a social worker on Cannery Row. She met Norman McLean, a navy officer from Marquette and they married on December 21, 1942 at the naval base church. They were together almost 50 years until his death on December 26, 1991. Prior to their move to the Copper Country, they also lived in Seattle and Chicago.
The snows of Calumet were a shock and she learned to ski and drove children, Norman, Anne, Barbara, and Donald to ski practice and ski meets for years. Summers were at the camp on Big Portage in Bootjack or on the golf course.
First a literary traveler and then a world traveler to dozens of countries, she traveled with her husband and later with good friends including Marjorie Cater, Ruth Campbell, Marilynn Hamar, and Mary and Jim Stone. Antarctica was a favorite. In her late 90s, when she could no longer travel she enjoyed dinners with international students and families at Canterbury House.
She was resilient. At age 14, her mother, Isabel, died from an unnecessary operation. A few years later on January 10, 1945, she lost her brother, Bud, Lt JG US Navy, on the South China Sea. Their stepmother, Kathleen Taylor also died young. After Sue’s traumatic brain injury in 1998, and emergency surgery in Glasgow, she participated in rehabilitation at Phillips Eye Institute, Minn., and healed with optimism, gratitude, exercise, humor, and piano lessons from Adrienne Shipley. She played piano on her own and with her loving caregivers until the end of her life. She provided an example of the healing plasticity of the brain. Her caregiver Paula said, “she loved laughter, she was a really cool lady and you could talk with her about anything.” Sue’s favorite quote was “Lord, may we never cease to laugh at ourselves, for we shall never cease to be amused.”
She was delighted in by her grandchildren, Kirsten McLean, Andrew McLean, Alexis McLean, Shane McLean, Hunter McLean, Thomas Ian McLean Powell and Caitlin McLean Powell. She encouraged and appreciated their singular gifts. She is also survived by her beloved nieces, Kathe Hulfeld, Suzanne Moderhak (Bud’s daughter), Trudy Miskovich; nephew, Billy McLean; and her sister-in-law, Evelyn. She considered her dear friend, Roberta Noetzel to be family. She enjoyed regular Sunday phone calls with Beverley Brownell, her stepmother, of Carmel Valley. She appreciated the regular visits from her older friend, Howard Nichola and her new friend, Lazlo.
Sue lived her last couple of years at home with her “cook”, Don. Her family is grateful for all those who listened to and laughed with her, brought her soup, played music with her or for her, and discussed books, travel, and adventure with her. We are especially grateful for her tender caregivers.
In lieu of flowers, Sue would like us to live a good life, laugh, read, get outside and move, and care for each other and the natural world. Donations could be to Trinity Episcopal Church, Houghton, MI; The CC Humane Society, or a charity of your choice serving nature, wild places, children, or education. A service at Trinity Episcopal Church, Houghton, MI, will be in May or June 2020.