Susan Carter McDonald passed away with unwavering strength and grace on the morning of May 24, 2021, in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her loving family, after a brave battle with a long-term illness. As the sun shone brightly over her beloved view of Morgan’s Bay, she left this Earth in true Susan McDonald fashion — when she was “damn good and ready.”
Susan was a proud Maine native, and took great pleasure in mentioning so. She was born in Blue Hill on April 27, 1951, to her parents, Barbara and Almon Carter. She was raised in the town of Surry on her family’s land, where she continued to live until her untimely death. Growing up, Susan spent many hours playing with her treasured cousin, Loretta Black, at their Grandmother Hilda’s house, where she learned to knit and sew, a skill and talent she applied throughout her life, along with many other valuable life lessons she learned there. She often spoke adoringly of her summers in Blue Hill, at her Uncle Richard and Aunt Lee’s house, which she considered a second home. After her uncle’s untimely passing, Aunt Lee — who she considered to be a second mother — remained a very special person who deeply impacted her young and adult life. Susan also spoke fondly of her very first trip to New York City with her Aunt Anne and Uncle Nick. Enamored by the bright city lights at Christmastime, exploring Rockefeller Center and attending her very first Broadway show, she fell in love with the arts and music, something she made an effort to expose her children to “whether they liked it or not.” Her summers in Maine gave her roots, while her trips to New York gave her wings.
Susan was an exceptionally gifted student. She attended the Claude L. Bonsey School in Surry before attending Ellsworth High School, where she met the love of her life, Dennis “Ray” McDonald. As fate would have it, a car ride home after school began their love story. The two quickly became inseparable after their first official date, a Beach Boys concert. This would be their first concert together, but certainly not their last, as they both shared a love for music over the years. After graduating high school, Ray and Susan ventured off to separate colleges. Ray attended the University of Southern Maine in Portland, while Susan attended Keene State College in New Hampshire. After studying biology for a year at Keene State, Susan made the decision to transfer to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital School of Nursing in Boston to pursue a nursing degree. She graduated with honors in 1973 as an RN, later earning her BSN from Husson University in 1995 — while also raising her four children. This might have seemed like a daunting task to some, and it certainly had its challenges, but Susan could do just about anything, in the eyes of those who knew her.
After graduating from nursing school, Susan moved back to her hometown of Surry to begin her life with Ray. They were married on Aug. 11, 1973, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Ellsworth. Together they built their home overlooking Morgan’s Bay, started their careers and began to expand their family. Susan was an accomplished nurse; she worked at Eastern Maine Medical Center, Maine Coast Memorial Hospital and Blue Hill Memorial Hospital. She especially loved her time working in the O.R. She also managed and ran nursing homes in both Deer Isle and Cherryfield. She worked alongside Dr. John Van Pelt at his Ellsworth practice for many years, where she had a profound impact on many families. Susan also found time to teach CNA classes at Hancock County Technical Center in Ellsworth. Her career ended at Maine Maritime Academy, where she ran the Student Health Services Department for 15 years. Students who visited her clinic spoke fondly about Susan, often describing her as a mom away from home. During this time, she also worked as a selectperson for the town of Surry for four years. Hard work was something Susan came by honestly. She put her heart and soul into everything she did, and she truly cared about the people in her community.
No accomplishment was greater than the love she had for her family and friends. She welcomed everyone into her home and heart, and her house became a special place to many. It was always the hub of activity; you never knew who was going to walk through the door, and it certainly never mattered to her or Ray— more was always merrier. She was a loving, dedicated and phenomenal mother to her four precious children, Matthew, Torrey, Richard and Layne. She had uniquely special relationships with each one of her children. She was one of their biggest supporters, both in school and extracurricular activities. She always instilled the importance of education and hard work. She took pride in their many accomplishments, both in school and athletics. Despite her busy career, you could often find her at most of her children’s school and sporting events. She deeply loved each of her children. She was always a source of their light and strength, a listening ear and a warm hug-even if they towered over her. She extended her love and warmth to her dear daughter-in-law, Sara, and son-in-law, Andy. She was a treasured mother-in-law and friend to both and felt blessed to have them as a part of her family. Her love did not stop there. Over the course of the years, her children’s close friends became a part of her family, too, and they often joined in holiday celebrations and special occasions, filling the house with joy and laughter. That’s when Susan was happiest, with all of her kids — biological and “non-biological”— sitting around the table, laughing and sharing memories together. Her greatest additions, without a doubt, were her cherished “Grandbabies,” Mason, Oaklee, Chase and Beckham. She loved each of them fiercely and wholeheartedly. She jumped at any opportunity to interact with them — whether it was to babysit, to attend a school event or a special celebration. You could find her on the living room floor rolling balls, or at the kitchen table painting or playing with play dough, baking her famous chocolate chip cookies, having a tea party or with a pile of toys covering every square inch of her living room floor. She was a hands-on Grammy and never turned down an adventure; She and her grandbabies loved combing the beach for sea glass or looking for crabs in the tide pools, hiking the Blue Hill Heritage trails, playing at the playground and so much more. She was also their safe place, too — a quiet cuddle when they needed settling, a foot rub or a kiss. Her grandchildren came to expect and love to be put in a “Grammy trap” and giggled until they gave her the “password.” They enjoyed sleepovers, dance parties and ice cream dates together. She was undoubtedly special to them all.
There was no one she loved sharing these special family moments and memories with more than her beloved husband, Ray. Together they proudly conquered parenthood and grandparenthood, all while stealing intimate moments with each other. They had many adventures together, whether it be vacationing to Bermuda and Cat Island in the Bahamas or catching a concert or having dinner at one of their many favorite restaurants. They always made special friends along the way, and they never stopped dating. They certainly shared a special love that was inspiring to all who were lucky enough to witness it.
Susan was predeceased by her parents, Barbara (Black) Carter and Almon Carter, and her brother, James A. Carter. She is survived by her loving husband of 47 years, Dennis “Ray” McDonald, her four children, Matthew McDonald, Torrey McDonald, Richard McDonald and wife, Sara, and their children, Mason and Chase, and Layne Cough and husband, Andy, and their children, Oaklee and Beckham, countless friends and special family members. She will be missed by many and forever remembered for her kind and loving soul. Wherever we go, we will carry her in our hearts.
A private service will be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Susan’s honor. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Old Surry Village Schoolhouse (https://www.mainepreservation.org/2019-honor-awards/2019/11/21/old-surry-village-schoolhouse-surry) as a thank you to the many members who offered warm meals and their endless support throughout this difficult year.
Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 113 Franklin St., Ellsworth. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com.