Susan Madsen Lathrop (aka “Suchi”) passed away in peace at home in Earthaven Ecovillage, Black Mountain, N.C., May 17, 2017, surrounded by beloved friends. She had experienced a quickly declining condition of ALS. A wake and funeral were held at Earthaven May 21 and a celebration of Suchi’s life and Memorial Meeting was held at the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meetinghouse in Black Mountain June 11.

Susan was born in 1944 in Schenectady, N.Y., to Milo and Helen Sorenson Lathrop. She had a younger brother, Peter, and an older half-sister, Mary, both of whom predeceased her. Most of her school years were spent in Nyack, N.Y. Susan briefly attended Cornell University, then transferred to City College where she graduated with a BA in psychology. She later earned an MA in library science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and then worked as a librarian at SUNY-New Palz and SUNY-Binghamton. She was a licensed electrician for eight years in Boston before moving to Waldo County in the late 1980s.

In Maine, Susan coordinated the independent living program at the Group Home in Belfast for several years and formed many deep connections with friends in the lesbian and Quaker communities. She served as Co-Clerk in the Belfast Area Friends Meeting, and helped start the weekly Sunday vigil for peace in downtown Belfast. She cared for her long-time partner, Sue Farrell, during her final year with cancer. Susan built her own home with the help of friends. She took many camping trips by canoe and kayak in Maine’s North Woods and around Penobscot Bay, and found peace and strength being in nature.

As much as Susan loved Maine, her belief in community as a core structure of human engagement and social relationship led her on an earnest search for an intentional community. She fulfilled her dream by moving to Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain N.C. At Earthaven, Susan adopted the name “Suchi” and became a beloved community leader, Elder, and Firekeeper. Suchi was outspoken and generous, and was the innovator of many activities at Earthaven that became long-standing traditions. She had a voice in many key committees over the years, pioneered development of a neighborhood solar micro-grid, was an ardent gardener and advocate of permaculture. Suchi filled her small greenhouse with food all year round.

Suchi was a long-time Quaker and committed pacifist, and an activist for causes of justice and human rights. She was active in the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, worked to support those with AIDS, and passionately advocated for peace and justice between Palestine and Israel. In Black Mountain, she served as clerk in the Swannanoa Valley Friends Meeting, and traveled to Israel and Palestine and became active in the U.S. movement to end the occupation, working with Asheville-area and national groups.

Suchi was pre-deceased by beloved friends Sue Farrell, Jane Bullowa, and her housemate of over a decade at Earthaven, Kimchi Rylander. Whether known as Susan or Suchi, many will miss her joy, her laughter, her wisdom and her active commitment to peace, justice and community.

Suchi’s hope is that people who want to honor her life will donate a day or two of volunteer support to a nonprofit organization in her name and in the name of her community, Earthaven Ecovillage, who cared for her so lovingly during her final months.