Life Story / Obituary
Susan Jane Weil was born at St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, IN to Jack Oden Weil and Evangeline Faith (Switzer) Weil. She was an only child who received all of her mother’s and father’s attention and admiration. She loved being an only child and had her father wrapped tightly around her finger.
Jack was an air raid warden during World War II, and as a small child Susie remembered being frightened when the air raid sirens went off, and her father would don his helmet and rush outside to identify the aircraft flying overhead. As a young Jewish child, Susie was fearful of the events of the war, although she was too small to understand all the ramifications.
Jack and Van worked as antique dealers, and Susie remembers being a “brat” and running around to all the booths at the different antique shows. She knew all the dealers, and what their specialties were. Later in life, Jack became a realtor, which he really enjoyed. They had lots of friends and an active social life.
Susie loved dancing and took all the ballet lessons, with frequent recitals. Her father loved sports and took Susie to numerous high-school and professional (Fort Wayne Pistons) basketball games. Going out to eat was a family favorite.
Susie’s grandfather was a furrier in Fort Wayne and in 1900, he built a family lake cottage on Crooked Lake in Oden, MI. This served as the summer retreat from the heat in northern Indiana. Every year when school was out, the family moved to Northern Michigan for 4-6 weeks. Susie loved living at the lake, enjoying swimming, boating, skiing, fishing with her father, and seeing her cousins and other friends.
Susie’s early years were filled with dance classes, lake trips, frequent vacations to very nice places, and antique shows, One trip involved meeting Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell on the set of the “Lemondrop Kid” in Hollywood. She loved traveling and her family went about everywhere in the continental U.S. Susie remembered that her family was refused lodging in some areas because they were Jews.
Her parents moved to a different school district in Fort Wayne just before Susie started to high school. She attended North Side High School where she met Sam at the end of her Freshman year. They met while they were both cleaning out their lockers at the end of the school year. Sam offered to carry Susie’s books out to the car. They didn’t see each other again until the next school year in the fall. Susie asked Sam out (Sadie Hawkins Day dance and hayride). That was the start of a major romance. After high school, they got married, and soon children followed. Deborah Sue Sefton was born February 12, 1959, followed by Samuel Weil Sefton on January 26, 1960.
Being young parents was hard enough, but their goals were even higher. With the help of both Susie’s and Sam’s parents, Sam started College at Indiana University Extension in Fort Wayne, working multiple jobs to help pay the bills. There was no job he turned down. Susie provided the expertise and devotion of a loving mother, and passed those qualities on to her children, Debbie and Sammy. Despite poor odds, working together, they were able to accomplish one of their goals when Sam was selected to attend I.U. Medical after only his junior year of college. Graduation in 1966 was triumphant for Susie as well as Sam. Sam readily admitted that he would never have made it without the support and encouragement of Susie. She was the catalyst and the rock.
Post-graduation, Sam remembers asking Susie where she wanted to live. Internship and further training could be done anywhere. Susie answered immediately that she wanted to live in Michigan, and no where else. That’s what happened of course, but the family did have a detour caused by the Vietnam War.
Following Internship in Kalamazoo, there was a special doctor draft, and Sam, and several other physicians were selected to train for the Vietnam war at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. It was the first time Susie and Sam were separated. When the final orders came through, they were for Fort Wainwright, Alaska. Susie and Sam decided to give the military “extra time” so that Susie, Debbie, and Sammy could accompany Sam on his military tour. It turned out to be quite a three-year adventure for everyone in the family. Not being separated was the goal they were able to accomplish.
After the military obligation was completed, it was on to Ann Arbor for more training. Pediatrics was the chosen specialty training and the family fell in love with Ann Arbor. The 4+ years they spent there were very happy, and very busy. Susie and Sam were especially elated when their second son arrived on May 29, 1973. Michael David Sefton joined the party and they couldn’t have been happier. After Pediatric training, Chief Residency in Pediatrics, and Neonatology training was completed at University of Michigan, it was on to Kalamazoo to practice Neonatology with a very gifted partner, Bill Scott.
Susie and Sam lived in Portage, worked in Kalamazoo, and completed their immediate family when David Scott Sefton was born on June 15, 1976. Unfortunately, Susie’s father died the same year, and her mother died the following year. Susie channeled all her love and devotion into raising the children and she did a marvelous job. It wasn’t long before the grandchildren started coming along. Graham (Sam W.) was first followed by Jackson (Debbie), Sydnee (David), Will (Debbie), Ben (David), Maddy (David), Luke (David), Gabe (David), Jack (Michael) and Charlotte (Michael). At the present time there are ten, who range in age from thirty to nine years of age. Susie approached them with the same love and devotion. She never missed any of their special days. Whether it involved a birthday, a holiday, an anniversary or some special program at school, Grandma Susie was on it.
In 1998 Susie and Sam decided that they would move their year-round home to Gull Lake. They had been spending the summers at Gull Lake since 1975. It was a great decision because the central location of the lake made it a focal point for weekends, holidays, and all the fun the lake could provide. Susie had always enjoyed lake living and now it was year-round. Sherman Lake YMCA, Gull Lake Country Club, the rural setting, and the fine neighbors all contributed to their new home site. Because of the weather in the summer, and everyone’s availability, 4th of July became our favorite holiday. In addition to the usual lake activities, they had special games they played. The kids and grandkids really enjoyed breaking up the piñatas, hunting the lightning bugs, and of course the fireworks on the lake. It became a tradition, and everyone tried to attend. Grandma Susie’s pies and other desserts were always favorites.
Like most families, vacations were the pinnacle for the year, Susie loved cruises, flying anywhere to a beach, very warm climates, or fun places to take the kids or grandkids. Snow skiing wasn’t her favorite, but she did it for the family. A jet ski ride around Bora Bora was much more entertaining for her. She really enjoyed the great food and entertainment on the cruises. Nantucket, Turkey, the Greek Isles, Tahiti, France, Italy, Greece, Japan and Mexico were all great travels. Return trips to Alaska kept them up to date with all the changes there and Hawaii was always fun. In later years, just going out to eat with their friends in Michigan or in Florida was enough to keep them busy. Spending four months at their condo on Singer Island turned into a habit. Susie loved the beach and the people using it. Reading a good book on the beach was paramount.
Susie was always looking for a good book to read, and she found many. Monthly book club was a special event. She also enjoyed playing Bridge, especially with Sally Mantle, or Carol Trittschuh. Daily exercise was important to her, and whether it was walking, riding the stationary bike, or water aerobics, it didn’t matter. Walking with Susan Gilmore was a favorite.
Talking on the phone was a favorite as well. Catching up with Joan Molitor, Debbie Hudgins, Carol Trittschuh, Judi Baldwin, Zulfiye Koymen, Clare Geil or Heide Boutell all had their place in Susie’s life. Sister-in-law Pat Sefton could heat up the telephone lines as well. In addition, Susie would reach out to friends who were having difficulties. She was a great listener, and rarely told people what to do, but she always listened, treated people with respect, and advocated “kindness”. Susie was “best friends” to many individuals.
Susie loved social media, and shared all the important news and pictures with Sam. It was a daily event for her to try to keep him informed about the important issues going on with friends, relatives, and strangers. She loved the interactions.
Right now it is hard to believe that the world is a better place without Susie in it. She was such a quiet, but caring person, who was always considerate of others. She loved her family more than anything, and always advocated kindness and understanding. May God rest her soul and take good care of her.
Susie was preceded in death by her parents, Jack Oden Weil and Evangeline Faith (Switzer) Weil. She is survived by her husband, Samuel M. Sefton; 4 children: Deborah (Scott) Reeves, Samuel (Abigail) Sefton, Michael (Hilary) Sefton, and David Sefton; 10 grandchildren: Graham Sefton, Jackson Reeves, Sydnee Sefton, William Reeves, Benjamin Sefton, Madyson Sefton, Luke Sefton, Gabriel Sefton, Jack Sefton, and Charlotte Sefton.
A service of memory and celebration is planned for February 1, 2020 at 3 pm at Betzler Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Dr., Kalamazoo, Michigan, 49009, (269) 375-2900. A reception with food and drinks will immediately follow the service at the funeral home. Please visit Susie’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. In lieu of flowers, please celebrate Susie’s generous spirit by making a donation to the charity of your choice.