by Sheila Styron

(Reprinted with permission from "Pawtracks," summer 2005.)

It is with deep personal sadness and many warm feelings that I take this opportunity to celebrate the life of Susan Kamrass with ACB members. Susan passed away on March 15, 2005, and is survived by her parents, Lee and Ben Kamrass of Beverly Hills, Calif., who, prior to losing Susan, experienced the untimely death of their son Sam, Susan's only sibling. Susan has family in Nogales, Ariz., where she was laid to rest.

I first encountered Susan in Louisville, at an ACB convention, where she admired a colorful beaded fanny pack I was carrying, and we hit it off immediately. Actually, I knew I would like Susan before I even ever met her, having heard that there was this really cool independent blind woman who lived on her own in a rural setting with lots of animals, including a horse, up in Washington state, a lifestyle that very much appealed to me. Susan was the only woman I ever met who owned a pair of silver Birkenstocks. She had a great sense of humor laced with more than a touch of irony at times, and when we were roommates at the ACB convention in Houston, we made up blind jokes. I guess we were more than just a little irreverent, but since we were both visually impaired, we decided it was OK. Even after convention, we would sometimes call each other up just to see which of us could make the other laugh more with one of our insane attempts at insider quirky humor. We shared a room at three ACB conventions, after Susan, upon hearing my request for a roommate, quipped, "I'm not really the roommate type, but I think you'll do."

Susan was a GDUI board member from 2000 through 2003 and very active with Guide Dog Users of Washington, serving as their treasurer. She worked two beautiful golden retrievers from Leader Dogs, Max and Captain, and assisted her training program to raise funds through speaking engagements with the Lions.

Born in 1951, Susan graduated from Western Washington University in 1973 with a degree in art history. She was very fond of the arts, from painting to dance and books to music. She loved movies, especially musicals from the '40s and '50s. Susan returned to school a few years later to study math and computer science, and for a while, considered pursuing engineering as a career. However, her fondness for the arts eventually won out, and she jumped at the opportunity to purchase Skagit Bay Books in LaConner, Wash. in the late 1980s, which she operated for a number of years. Susan also painted and was an avid and talented needle worker accomplished in knitting, crochet, and needlepoint. She was an enthusiastic supporter of other artists and craftspeople.

Susan had many friends from many walks of life. She made me feel very welcome when I was new to GDUI and ACB through laughter and her ability to bring something special to ordinary activities. While poor health and steadily decreasing vision sometimes challenged her ability to participate in the activities she loved, Susan was an indomitable and adaptable spirit. She usually found a way around the obstacles that she encountered and displayed more courage and determination than almost anyone else would have. Susan's sense of humor was never absent for very long. I'm grateful for the friendship and good times we shared and only wish I had gotten to know her sooner. Susan Kamrass, please know that you are loved and missed by many, and we will cherish your friendship and memory always.

From Anna Chamberlain, who shared fond recollections of Susan with me: "I feel lucky to have known Susan over an extended period, to have seen her at a different time in her life and to have witnessed her ability to grow as she met her many challenges. She was an exotic and intriguing 'aunt' to my two children, and for this consistent and loving participation in their growing up, I am eternally grateful. She was also a member of my larger family, and she rarely missed a holiday, birthday, or backyard picnic, so she will be missed by my siblings, nieces and nephews as well."

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