Susan Cochran Gibson, one of five children born to Frederick and Velma (Watt) Cochran was born on October 22, 1923. She is the last of her siblings, surviving into her 97th year. She died on November 2, 2020 in the care of Hope Hospice at St. Clare Home, Newport, RI.
Susan graduated from high school early, and went on to graduate in the top 2% of her class at Berea College in KY in 1945. With her husband, the Rev. Dr. Raymond E. Gibson, she studied the philosophy of religion in the master’s program at Columbia University in 1946-47. He continued on with his studies earning a PhD, while she worked to support them as a Ford Agency model in NYC, making the cover of Seventeen Magazine in 1949. Education was always ongoing throughout her life as she audited Greek at Brown University, and later earned a Master’s of Library Science degree from the University of Rhode Island.
Susan married (the late) Rev. Dr. Raymond E. Gibson the day following her college graduation in 1945. The Second World War was ending and Raymond, a Navy Chaplain, was granted a 48-hour leave of absence for their wedding at Berea College, where they first met and both graduated from. Their marriage of 60 years lasted to his death in 2005. They had five children.
Once her youngest son was enrolled in kindergarten Susan began working towards her MLS degree. She served as the Head Librarian at the Wheeler School in Providence, RI, for almost two decades. This work was perfect for her as she loved literature and history, was methodical and organized, easily quoting Latin, Greek, and famous authors of poetry and literature throughout her life.
As a minister’s wife, Susan graciously served all of the requisite duties, first at New Lebanon Congregational Church, then at South Congregational Church in Pittsfield MA (10 years) and finally at Central Congregational Church in Providence RI (27 years). She was the Clerk of the First Congregational Church of Hillsborough Center in NH (almost 50 years) where she provided the fresh flowers from her garden for the summer services.
Susan was a talented musician. She played the piano in her high school orchestra and continued to play her entire life. She sang in the church choirs and encouraged her children to study and play music. Her home was always filled with piano, guitar, banjo, harmonica, violin, and recorder music, and of course singing.
In the early 1960’s, looking to give their children the experience of nature and working a farm, the couple acquired a property in rural New Hampshire. There their young family grew vegetables, stabled ponies from a local farmer, chopped wood, learned archery and most of all gained a deep appreciation for the woods and nature. Susan baked bread, nourished her children with fresh food, and filled the house with music, flowers, literature and a bounty of love. Their academic months were spent in Providence RI, their summers in Hillsborough NH. The couple retired there full time in 1986.
A social activist, Susan was always on the side of the environment, civil rights, the plight of migrant farm workers and women’s rights. She was a conservationist; never owned a clothes dryer, always rode her Raleigh 3 Speed bike to work, refused the elevator to her office and used canvas cloth grocery bags 40 years before they became the norm. She never allowed pesticides to be spread in her gardens and kept bees. She was a true lover of nature and supported the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society.
In the last decades of her life she enjoyed reading, gardening and the beauty of nature. Susan hosted many large gatherings for holidays as her own children returned with their spouses and her grandchildren. She moved to Assisted Living in Newport, RI, at the age of 95 though she insisted she’d be perfectly fine living on alone.
She is survived by her children; Cyrus, Mark, Christopher, Lauren and Jonathan; their spouses, Barbara, Mary Ann, Anne, Bayard and Camille; eight grandchildren: Raymond, Jessica, Lauren, Matthew, Margo, Bailey, Emily and Lily. She will be greatly missed by all.
A memorial service will be held in the summer at the church by her beloved farmhouse in New Hampshire.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in honor of Susan C. Gibson, to: The First Congregational Church 1 North Road Hillsborough, NH 03244.
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