2009-10-08 / Obituaries

Susan K. Foote, 57

Susan K. Foote died at home on Sept. 29 after an extraordinary fight with lung cancer. She was 57.

Susan described herself as a speech and language pathologist for people who didn’t speak, primarily adults with developmental disabilities. She developed communication systems that empowered people with autism and other developmental challenges to participate in making the decisions that affected their lives. She had an extraordinary empathy for the most vulnerable among us, practiced through observation, analysis and the development of innovative, positive and proactive programs and services that earned her international respect.

For the past 18 years, she served as the speech and language pathologist and clinical team member at Perspectives Corporation, but she was also on the clinical teams for many agencies, including Avatar Residential of Warwick, Bridges of Jamestown, Looking Upwards in Middletown and LIFE in Tiverton. Her trainings for staff and support communities in R.I. and other states were legendary for their humor, intelligence and the depth and breadth of information and understanding that they conveyed.

Susan was born in Lockport, N.Y., the daughter of Robert A. and Judy (Kovach) Foote. She earned a New York State Regent’s scholarship to study at State University of New York at Geneseo, and received her Bachelor of Science in speech pathology and audiology in 1974.

After graduation, she worked for two years in McIntosh County Ga., as the county public schools’ first speech pathologist. She returned to Geneseo to get her master’s degree in speech and language pathology, then moved to R.I. (because, among the many job offers, her beloved grandmother Della Foote liked the sound of Providence) to work at Sargent Rehabilitation Center as program coordinator, clinical supervisor and then assistant director. She was the director of clinical services for the Blackstone Valley Center from 1983 to 1991, and the director of clinical services at the Cranston Center from 1991 through 1995.

In the words of one of her colleagues, “There was no one like her. She was the epitome of laughter and love and strength.” She was very smart and better yet, curious. She loved to travel, but her trips were rarely conventional. She trekked through Ecuador and Patagonia, to Macchu Picchu in Peru twice, through the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Swiss Alps. She biked through Michigan, Ohio and New York, as well as the Canadian Rockies of British Columbia. In all, she visited more than 15 countries’.

In March of 2006, she summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro; less than four months later, she was diagnosed with lung cancer that had already metastasized. And yet in September of 2007, after two surgeries, four radiation treatments and in the midst of a clinical trial, she joined her sister and two friends on a bike trip through Hungary.

She loved the woods and hiked the trails of the Adirondacks, where she also had a home. And she loved Rhode Island (her grandmother was right,) the ocean and her home in Jamestown, which she shared with her partner, Mary Meagher. Besides her parents and partner, she leaves her sister, Diana Mente, of Woodhaven, Mich., her nephew, Rick Mente, and many aunts, uncles and cousins. And she leaves colleagues and friends, too many to count, whom she loved and who loved her in return.

A memorial celebration of Susan’s life was held at her home in Jamestown last Friday. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Susan’s name to the R.I. chapter of the Autism Society of America, the Autism Research Institute or Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in honor of Susan and her incredible doctor, Jennifer Temel, MD.

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