Cover photo for Susan D. Medalie's Obituary
Susan D. Medalie Profile Photo

Susan D. Medalie

October 7, 1938 — May 9, 2024

Cleveland

Susan D. Medalie

Susan D. Medalie, 85, of Cleveland, Ohio, and Hull, Massachusetts, loving wife and mother, lawyer and aficionado of politics, died from sepsis on May 9, 2024.

Susan was the cherished wife for 61 years of Richard “Rick” Medalie (deceased), and mother of Samuel and Daniel (Diana). She is also survived by her brother George S. Abrams, twin grandchildren Clara and Benjamin Medalie, nieces Sarah Abrams and Rebecca Abrams (Nathan Benn), and grand-nephew Tobias Benn. Her beloved sister was the late Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ruth I. Abrams 

Susan was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the daughter of the late Samuel and Mathilda Abrams. She was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, and she received a master’s degree in education from George Washington University and a law degree from American University 

In her 20s, Susan moved with her husband to Washington, DC, where they raised their two children. When the boys entered high school, she felt that their cohort could use a publication that addressed some of the complex issues facing teens during the free-wheeling 1970s, so she launched Getting There, a lively monthly magazine chock full of advice, profiles and opinions for teenagers. Along the way, she learned all the tricks of organizing on a deadline, rounding up advertisers and donors, and corralling writers and artists (many of them teens) to submit content. These skills came in handy during the next phase of her professional life, as she immersed herself in political campaigns, event-planning, and fundraising. One of her proudest early projects was helping to pave the way for the creation of the U.S. Holocaust Museum on the National Mall. 

As soon as her sons went off to college, Susan resolved to earn a law degree, and she did so with characteristic determination and gusto. In the years of hitting the law books and arguing in moot court, she also nurtured a new-found appreciation for spring break beach vacations with her husband and sons. Pina coladas were mandatory. After passing the D.C. bar exam, Susan served as assistant dean of external affairs at the George Washington Law School, then dove into a series of positions within the high-powered arena of political consulting and advocacy. Most notably, she helped organize a worldwide conference on AIDS policy for the Paris-based International Society for Global Health Policy, and later served as executive director of the Women’s Campaign Fund, a bipartisan political action committee dedicated to increasing women in public office who supported reproductive rights. Those who worked with Susan uniformly described her as “a force of nature.”

Though she swore that she would never leave DC, Susan (and Rick) decided to retire to the coastal town of Hull, MA, in the same vacation house that her father Sam had bought in 1942. Susan’s grandfather, an immigrant from Russia, had first moved to the small seaside town in the late 1800s, and her own father was born and raised there before settling in Newton. Susan had spent every summer of her life in Hull from the age of 4 and carried the tradition on with her own children. Over many decades, the old house had become a summer way station for siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins intent on lounging on the beach, eating lobsters and steamers at Jake’s, and strolling the boardwalk at the rickety old Paragon amusement park. New England clam chowder was the only soup allowed at Susan’s home!

As soon as Susan and Rick moved to Hull full time, they immersed themselves in the local community. Susan became a shrewd bargain-hunter at the Hingham auction house, and a passionate member of the Hull garden club. Their children and grandchildren would visit, and she would spend long hours talking on the phone with her brother George and sister Ruth about politics, the law and the New England Patriots. Life was peaceful. And then Covid hit. In quick and tragic succession, Rick succumbed to the virus, and Susan’s home was destroyed when a pipe burst, flooding the entire first floor. Grief-stricken, Susan agreed (with some trepidation) to move to an independent living community in Cleveland, near her younger son, Daniel.

 As with each life stage, Susan hit the ground running. She made new friends – noting wryly that Midwesterners thought the same things as people from the East Coast, they just didn’t say them out loud – attended classical music concerts, argued politics, and became a tireless literary critic for her community newsletter, churning out book reviews every two weeks.  She also discovered a consuming new passion for art.  She had access to a well-stocked art studio and an indulgent art teacher, and within short order became extraordinarily prolific, producing a solo show of paintings and collage. It was still hanging on the building’s walls when Susan died.

For those who knew her, Susan was unforgettable. She had a mischievous smile, a halo of curly reddish-brown hair that turned snow-white in her later years, and a singular and elegant sense of style -- whether attending a DC gala or a trip to the local thrift store. Dynamic, outspoken, flashy, and sardonic, she could be a tempest one moment and a comic the next. Politics was her life blood. She was fiercely loyal and loved her grandchildren unconditionally. On her last day of life, she looked at her daughter-in-law Diana and her grandson Ben and said, “Toodle-oo.” To her son Daniel she stated simply, “See ya later, kid.” She will long be remembered.

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