Theirs was a life lived together — fully.
Susan was born in 1944 in New York City, N.Y., to Frances Chester Jones and, Edward Jennings Becker while her father was serving the military. Raised in St. Louis, Mo., she was the first of five children. She attended Maryland School in Clayton through grade 6. She graduated in 1962 from John Burroughs High School with a strong foundation in sculpture. From 1962-66, she attended Newcomb College in New Orleans, La., with a double major in art history and sculpture. Summers were spent at Aspen Contemporary Art School and Alamoosook Island Camp as counselor.
Carl, born 1941 in New Haven, Conn., to Mary Anderson Chase and Epes Dixwell Chase, was the first of seven children. He grew up in Norwalk and Wilton, Conn. He attended Wilton Public School through ninth grade, spending the summer of 1951 at Alamoosook Island Camp. Then Phillips Exeter Academy, played flute in the school orchestra and guitar in the Royal Exonians and the Cubalibra Quartet. He left Exeter for a year to work on the Norwegian freighter Gunvor Brøvig, as a deck boy, returning to graduate in 1960. Carl continued at Harvard University, graduating in 1964 with a BA in music. He played guitar with the jazz band, and bass with the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra. Two summers were spent as a counselor at Alamoosook Island Camp in Orland, where he first met Susan, but no sparks then! In 1964, Carl moved to New York City, to enroll at Bank Street College of Education, where he earned a master’s degree. He student taught at City and Country School for a few months then took over a sixth grade class, staying on until 1966.
It was the end of the summer of 1965 when the sparks first flew between Susan and Carl. Carl was skipper of schooner Alamar at Alamoosook Island Camp and Susan was returning to Alamoosook to pick up her younger sister Alison. The following school year Susan left Newcomb and they married Jan 15, 1966. She joined Carl in NYC for rest of that school year and studied at Art Students League, Pratt Graphics and Greenwich House Pottery. She also taught an after-school program at City and Country School. They both returned as counselors at Alamoosook Camp that following summer. Autumn found them in New Rochelle, N.Y., living on board the newly purchased schooner Tyrone, for the winter. Susan had a studio on the Lower East Side. Their daughter Jennifer was born March of ’67, and in May they set sail around the world.
After reaching Guyana they returned to Maine in 1968 in search of more purpose on the water. They settled in Camden. Susan made sculpture for rent, while Carl worked at Bald Mountain Boatworks. Their son Nigel was born October ’69. That summer they lived and worked on Hurricane Island, for the Outward Bound School, and bought the ketch Saorsa. In 1971, they moved to Brooksville and bought and rebuilt the schooner Nathaniel Bowditch for sail training for youth. During these years Carl discovered “pan” (steelbands) sailing in the Caribbean, and began making pans in his backyard. He started Atlantic Clarion Steel Band in 1974, performing on the steps of the post office in South Brooksville. Susan founded and taught at Brooksville Nursery School. In 1974, they built their off-the-grid home on Horseshoe Cove. Carl opened a boat shop with his brother Peter Chase in South Brooksville, following which he shipped out as captain of Harvey Gamage, Young America and R/V Westward. Meanwhile, Susan apprenticed for Ron Pearson (goldsmith) on Deer Isle, from 1975-79, and then went on her own, opening Harbor Studio in South Brooksville.
In the fall of ’81, they moved to Woods Hole, Mass. Susan started an art program at Falmouth Academy, then moved with the headmaster to Cape Cod Academy, started the art program there, and taught until 1991. She showed at Handworks Gallery, Chesterfield, Mass., taught at Falmouth Artist Guild, as well as finished her BA from University Without Walls. Susan took classes at Harvard, and from 1989-91 attended the University of Southern Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Mass., for a master’s degree in sculpture. From 1978-86, Carl was the full-time nautical science teacher at Sea Education Association and shipped out as captain of the R/V Westward. Atlantic Clarion Steel Band reformed in Woods Hole and began playing professional gigs. After a trip to Trinidad in ’87, Carl met Roland Harrigan, who graciously taught him how to properly make and tune pans. He quit sailing for S.E.A. in ’86, and wrote and published his textbook “Introduction to Nautical Science.” After swallowing the anchor, Carl made steelbands his livelihood, playing gigs, starting school programs and making and selling pans, as Susan finished up her master’s.
In 1991, they finally returned to their home on Horseshoe Cove. Susan showed her sculpture at Leighton Gallery, Blue Hill, and Turtle Gallery, Deer Isle. She taught at Bay School and directed Blue Hill Adult Ed. at GSA. She created sculpture and mural projects at GSA, Bay School, Brooksville School and Blue Hill Consolidated School. In 2013, she opened Sculpture Woods in her backyard. Carl continued with Atlantic Clarion Steel Band, and started a community steel band through the Adult Ed. program at GSA, which became Flash in the Pans. Carl was hired by GSA to teach pan in the school, and his son Nigel took over pan classes, Rhythm Rockets and Planet Pan. Carl continued to direct Flash in the Pans until he retired in 2017. In 2005, Susan and Carl bought Ruth Ann II, a sardine carrier from Eastport. They rebuilt her and took their last long voyage, cruising down the intracoastal waterway from 2006-07, selling her in 2012, and buying a small lobster boat, Annie, on which they enjoyed picnics on the islands.
Culminating in a joint decision, organized thoroughly and talked about often, they surprised us all when they took their lives Oct. 27, 2019. Together holding hands, fingers entwined peacefully, they swallowed sleeping pills, and were found sitting in their favorite spot in their home, looking out over Horseshoe Cove.
Carl and Susan are survived by their two children, Jennifer Bontie Chase and Nigel Philip Chase, and four grandchildren: Perry, Zephyr, Misty and Lucy. Susan is survived by her sister Alison and brother Jim; she was predeceased by sisters Joan and Ann. Carl is survived by brothers Eric and Andy, and sisters Arria, Lisa and Josie. He was predeceased by his brother Peter.
There was an informal gathering to honor them on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Susan’s Sculpture Woods. A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Contributions can be made to Peninsula Pan Inc.(peninsulapan.org) or Schooner Alamar (sailalamar.com).
Letter from Carl and Susan
For anyone who wants to know.
This is an attempt to explain why we have decided to end our lives now. We believe it is a person’s fundamental right to choose whether or not to go on living when they approach the “end-game” of life, and for many reasons that time has come for us. We have come to this decision both independently and together. Here are some of the considerations that have led us to make this choice.
We have had full and happy lives, blessed with extraordinary good luck. It is unreasonable at our age to assume it will continue that way and we want to leave while things are still good, before our luck runs out, not after!
We have enjoyed generally good health until the last few years, when it has started to become clear that the body is wearing out. Where most people these days tackle every medical issue as it arises, we’ve chosen not to spend our last years in an escalating battle against our body’s failures, taking more and more pills, signing up for exhausting operations, waiting for the next issue to show up. Dying is natural, and inescapable. We see nothing good about stretching the process out over as many years as possible.
Dementia lurks for all of us and we are determined to escape that fate. We would hate to burden family, friends and each other with our care. Some might say that is what family and friends are for, but in the case of the elderly we heartily disagree, if there is a chance to avoid it. Too much time, energy, money and good will is squandered trying to eke out those last days, months and years.
We feel that we have made some small contributions to the communities in which we have lived, but they have – and will – become less and less. We dread becoming useless, using up more and more resources and attention, and contributing less and less in return. We feel that happening.
For myself (Carl) as things break down I can’t enjoy many of the things I like to do. My hearing – even with the best hearing aids – doesn’t let me follow conversations, movies, music, etc. – well enough to enjoy them. My failing knees ruled out skiing some years ago; now walking and getting in and out of boats are difficult. I have some other on-going medical issues which I’ve chosen to ignore rather than fight because an old age spent fighting losing battles is not a life I want.
And as for me (Susan)… the dementia on my maternal side (mom and grandmother) looms as a crouching demon from age 75 on. I do not want to lose my mind. I do not want to live in assisted living or a nursing home. And I do not want to use up the money doing so. I would rather it be shared and put to good use for the next generations. Physically I’m in good shape for 75, but I feel things going and have some nagging internal issues.
And then there’s this…
While it is always possible that things will turn around for the better for the human race here on earth, it is impossible to imagine that it could happen anytime soon – certainly not in any possible lifetime of ours. The pressure of over-population is bringing about the destruction of civilization, and will eventually cause the extinction of our species as we make the planet unfit for ourselves. This process is already well underway. As a consequence truth, decency and rule of law are disappearing daily right before our eyes, leaving no system or social structure capable of managing the mess. Things are sure to get uglier and more violent as “survival of the fittest” becomes the rule. It is hard to be cheerful when confronted by the daily news. We’ve seen more than enough of it already. We have no desire to be further witness to it.
In short, we want to conclude our lives on a high note while we still have the wits and capability to manage it. We’d like to think that we’ll be remembered as the persons we’ve been up till now, rather than gamble on what we may become over the next 10 – 20 years. In any case that is our choice!
Finally, we sincerely apologize to anyone we have inconvenienced or let down by our decision, its timing or the absence of any warning. There was no good way to schedule it without having to involve others. That was unthinkable. Although we are blessed with wonderful family and friends this was too personal to share with anyone. We appeal to you for understanding, and beg that you will help each other in picking up the pieces we inevitably leave behind.
More than 45,000 Americans
died of suicide in 2018.
For those in need of help,
professionally trained crisis
workers are available
24 hours a day, seven days
a week at the Maine Crisis
Hotline at 1-888-568-1112.