Suzanne Lewin grew up in the 1930s in the Bronx with Jewish parents. Her mother, Henrietta, was a third grade teacher who imparted her love of education to her only daughter. Suzanne attended Hunter College in New York at the age of 16 and later came to the northwest to attend the UW. She found her lifelong career with the Washington State Employment Security from which she retired in the early 1980’s.
Confidant and friend Donna Basher describes Suzanne as woman who had a thirst for knowledge, incredibly smart, and very feisty! They loved to talk politics, economics, and especially access to healthcare because of Suzanne’s mother’s illness. “She was a well-read, very smart woman with a quirky personality who decided it was time to buy her first TV so she could watch the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana,” laughs Basher.
Suzanne had tremendous respect for her mother who died from Parkinson’s Disease in the 1970’s. Suzanne saw the difficulties her mother faced and, at the time, how difficult it was to get supporting resources. It then became her mission to study the progress and treatment of patients affected by this disease. She was inspired by Michael J. Fox and his tenacity to encourage people with Parkinson’s to live their life and when former Washington State Governor Booth Gardner joined forces with EvergreenHealth to create the Booth Gardner Parkinson’s Care Center, Suzanne jumped at the chance to make a difference.
She reached out to the Foundation and Dr. Juan Aragon, EvergreenHealth Executive Director of Medical Specialties and Physician Services, to learn more about the great work that is being done at EvergreenHealth. Dr. Aragon remembers her saying at nearly 80 years of age, “I want to make this gift in memory of my Mommy.” A statement that resonates with him “that was made with great honor and respect.”
Throughout Suzanne’s life she lived without frills because she had a bigger goal in mind. She wanted to take care of people like her mother. Basher says when Suzanne’s father passed she inherited his stock portfolio and she decided to learn more and invest it wisely so she could help lots of people. And that she did! Suzanne created an estate plan that would offer more support to the community. She made a generous gift in her will to create the Suzanne Lewin Endowment for Parkinson’s in memory of her mother, Henrietta Lewin.
Suzanne faced several health challenges in the last few years and utilized the services of the EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Home Health Care, and Hospice. Basher recalls it all with a tear in her eye, reassured that Suzanne was being cared for by the best. “They were so tender with her at the hospice care center – I know that she would have loved the beautiful quilt that adorned her bed the day she died. Most importantly,” Donna says, “was that she got to help LOTS of people through her will… I know that she would just love that.”