I first met Sousan when I moved into Aldebrain Tower in Scarborough. Very quickly I learned what a powerful presence was housed in that petite figure of hers. Sousan had a tremendous amount of self-respect and joy of life. I think this was probably a defining trait for her and powered many of her life decisions.
Sousan fought very hard to have attendant services brought into Aldebrain Tower – a totally accessible apartment building that she helped to design. The building reflected her elegant taste and the services her desire to see people with disabilities live in the community on their own terms. A few years ago I invited her to join the Board of Directors of Citizens with Disabilities Ontario (CWDO), an organization which board members of Aldebrain founded. She agreed to join in honour of her ex-husband, Udo Franz, a founding member who had passed away. In her role as a board member I had the great joy of working together with her on a number of issues. This deepened our friendship as I got to know Sousan better as we worked on common goals. Sousan dove in wholeheartedly to a number of CWDO's projects. She was passionate about our work to provide advice for stronger accessibility standards, protections for attendant services and physician-assisted suicide.
She wrote: “The only way persons with disabilities can have the opportunity to live with respect and dignity is to have the services and supports they need.” Even though she had never done it before, she led two online webinars, facilitating consultations between officials who were reviewing accessibility legislation and members of CWDO. Sousan took her role as a board member seriously, faithfully attending CWDO’s online meetings, supporting our telephone blitzes to contact members across Ontario and treated everyone with respect. She volunteered for every committee and working group we had going, made positive contributions and never forgot to thank other board members for their efforts.
Board members past and present shared their memories of Sousan when they learned she passed away. She made a profound impact on us. I would like to take a moment to share with some of the comments board members made at the time:
- “Sousan was a wonderful Board member and held CWDO's best interests close to her heart.”
- “There are some board members who are like family to me. She was definitely one.”
- “To me, Sousan was like a breath of fresh air. She was thoughtful in her contributions to discussions. She had an insight into issues that was unique. She was compassionate about what she did and most often had hidden abilities that needed just a little encouragement to come out."
- "I am certainly going to miss her as we move forward and do our best to implement what she was so emotionally driven to see put in place for all Ontarians."
- "This is such heartbreaking news for CWDO and her family and friends. I didn't know her very well, just from our [online] meetings, but from what I learned through those, she was an amazing person with a great passion for CWDO and helping people with disabilities."
- “I only had the pleasure of working with her for a short time. I joined [the board] just recently and yet I truly count Sousan as one of the kindest and most welcoming people I'd ever worked with.”
- “I may have only heard her voice through digital means but that was more than enough to convey the stellar person she was – such a positive and driven human who was so well-liked and so dedicated. I wish I could say that I met her in person. I wish I could say I told her how welcome she made me feel. In the end there are no words that can sum up such a loss of someone so incredible.”
- "My sincerest condolences and sadness go out to all of you in CWDO, those of you who knew her as a personal friend, and her family."
- And finally: “I hope we can forge on and help to honour Sousan’s memory and determination in all that we do together.”
Sousan left us far too soon. But she left knowing that she was loved by her husband, Jack, that she was capable of working as a professional, making and keeping a strong circle of friends and she left us knowing she had done good things for her community and for people with disabilities.
Sousan lived well and her life was well lived. She was a good friend who was always willing to listen and make gentle, practical suggestions whenever she saw a need. May she be an example for all of us and inspire us to make more room in our lives to help others – even if it means stepping outside our own comfort zone at times, like Sousan did.
God bless you, Sousan. Rest in peace. ~ Tracy Odell