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Susan Cantrell: A Remembrance

by Jean Williams
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The only person I know of with the talent to write a fitting tribute to Susan Cantrell was Susan herself, though she would be far too modest to say about herself the things that all of us who knew her are now feeling our hearts. She wrote tributes to other people, Wabash alumni or recipients of honorary degrees: eloquent essays, sometimes touching, frequently leavened with gentle humor, that captured the essence of an individual and expressed it in words that must have sprung full-blown from the minds of the muses. It was a gift, one that any aspiring writer would sell his or her soul to possess.

She had another gift, as well—one that showed great promise when she was young but which she did not use in later years, perhaps for reasons of health. She had a voice like purest silver. I remember the first time I ever heard her, at a high school assembly in the early 1960s. She sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hand," and the normally restive students sat there spellbound until the end. It was also my pleasure to hear her sing the lead role in the Scarlet Masque production of "Guys and Dolls" at Wabash, directed by the late Charlie Scott. I had only a non-speaking part but it required me to go to frequent rehearsals, and those rehearsals were pure delight, listening to Susan sing. I doubt that any production at Wabash has ever surpassed that show.

One of the most touching pieces Susan ever wrote, in my opinion, was her tribute to Charlie Scott in Wabash Magazine after he died. I can only hope that Susan and Charlie are together somewhere in the afterworld, putting on another musical and wowing the angels.