Donald C. (Don) Susens, born March 15, 1930 in Superior, Wisconsin, died peacefully on January 13, 2018 in St. Petersburg, Florida, surrounded by his loving family. Don struggled valiantly with Parkinson’s disease for eight years prior to his death.
Don grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin as the youngest of eight children and graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Superior in 1952 with a B.S. in math and physics. He served in the U.S. Air Force for two years, one of which was spent in Korea. In 1954, Don started his career at Honeywell as an aerospace engineer in their Avionics Division, where he worked on most of the major space programs, including the mission to put a man on the moon by 1969 and the Space Shuttle. He lived in White Bear Lake, Minnesota until 1971, when he moved to St. Petersburg, Florida with his family. At that time, he became a parishioner of the Cathedral of St. Jude. Don retired from Honeywell in 1988.
Some of Don's happiest years after he retired were spent traveling with his wife, Linda, to exotic and intriguing places, including Alaska, which became a summer retreat for twelve years. Don loved the outdoors and most of all, fishing. Alaska provided him with an opportunity to fish to his heart’s content for salmon and halibut, and his numerous catches were generously shared with his family and friends. Throughout the years, Don and Linda rescued several dogs and raised them in a safe and loving home. In return, the dogs became their constant and loyal companions.
Don was an avid reader and was an expert on a variety of topics ranging from politics, science and history to car mechanics. He was also a lifelong learner. Don earned a Master's Degree in Management in 1977 from the University of South Florida. He also learned to scuba dive at the age of 54 and earned his Certified Financial Planner certification in 1990.
Even as he dealt with the pain and limitations of his disease, Don remained the patient and thoughtful man he was throughout his life. He never lost his legendary wit and dry sense of humor and his unique ability to amuse his family, friends and caregivers.
Don will be greatly missed, but his wisdom, generosity, intelligence and zest for life will live on in the memories of all who knew him.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 26 years, Linda, and his five children: Stephanie (David Ross), Mark (Ellen Odell), Suzanne (Steve McCauley), Charlotte (Mark) Engeman and Magdalen (Sheldon) Livingston. Don was blessed with nine grandchildren whom he loved dearly: Vanessa (Greg), Brendan, Jacob, Matthew, Sheldon III, Ian, Lindsay, Chloe and Niko, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. For the last two years of his life, Don was extremely fortunate to experience the compassion and companionship of his kind and devoted caregiver, Enrique (Kiki) Nunez, to whom the family will be forever grateful.
Don was predeceased by his parents, William and Mabel Susens, and his siblings, Isabelle Hallquist, William, Jr., Robert, James, Mary Ryan, Thomas and Bernard. He was also predeceased by Deziah G. (Hutchins) Susens, who he was married to from 1956 until her death in 1976, and his daughter, Jennifer, who died in infancy.
The family extends their gratitude to the staff of Bon Secours Maria Manor for their care and concern, with special thanks to Wonder Jorden, Yolanda Wigington, Alexis Miller and Betty Williamson.
Visitation will be held Sunday, January 21, 5 to 7 p.m. at Brett Funeral Home, 4810 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, FL 33711. The funeral Mass will be held on Monday, January 22, at 9:30 a.m., at Our Lady’s Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Jude, 5815 5th Ave. North, St. Petersburg, FL 33710. On Thursday, January 25, 10 a.m. to noon, visitation will be held at Willwerscheid Funeral Home, 1167 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105. Interment will follow at Resurrection Cemetery, Mendota Heights, MN.
In lieu of flowers, his family requests that donations be made in his memory to Suncoast Hospice https://suncoasthospice.org/donate.