Sue Arnett Quast
September 19, 1935 – January 9, 2020
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
— Joyce Kilmer
My mother, Sue Ann Arnett Quast, loved her family and she loved trees. Born in the small, rural town of Pinch, West Virginia on September 19, 1935, she was always happiest when she was surrounded by both. Her father’s job required her family of origin to move multiple times throughout her childhood, meaning she attended 10 elementary schools, two junior high schools and four high schools. Her parents, Cap and Marbel, and three older sisters — Wanda, Peggy and Phyllis — were her foundation growing up. I suspect trees were her constant companions too.
She passed away on January 9, 2020, and a great comfort to those of us who will love her forever and miss her each day is that she is the last of that family of origin to go. We like to picture her beautiful, raucous and hilarious sisters welcoming her at Heaven’s gate — she has missed them so.
Her devoted husband, Jim, lives on to share the stories of their 55-year-marriage (which began as a somewhat shocking whirlwind and then long-distance romance on the beaches of Savannah, Georgia). When asked what he will miss the most about her he simply quotes the song Me and Bobby McGee, “But I’d trade all of my tomorrows for a single yesterday.” Her eldest son, Greg, who was one of the primary figures in her care in the last years of her life, wins the award for the son who loved his mother beyond compare. Middle son, Rick (Cheryl), a man of few words but a huge heart, gave her three beautiful grandchildren — Jared, Ethan, and Amanda — one of her most prized and precious gifts. And I, youngest daughter Kathy (John), refused to write a traditional obituary and, instead, will give you this:
Sue loved being with and interacting with people. Whether playing sports, serving as drum major, or being elected “best all-around student” her senior year in high-school; serving as a decorated X-ray technician and then realtor in her pre-wedding and post-wedding careers, or traveling through Europe by train at the age of 64, she connected on a special level with others. Raised in a conservative household, she never let that shape her worldview and “thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all different types of people”. This was evident in her delicious relationship with her best friend of the last 19 years, Nancy Jean Keeler — a beautiful Humboldt hippie with a heart of gold.
Sue also loved music and played the trumpet and French horn, dabbled in lounge singing, and taught her daughter to hum before she could even talk. Those of us who knew and loved her know that if she herself was humming, she was deeply, deeply happy.
Finally, Sue loved to laugh. This was most evident in the last years of her life. Paralyzed on the left side of her body in 2001, she spent 19 years bravely and powerfully finding the brightest side of life. In fact, her very first post-stroke nurse, Jude, became a lifelong friend of the family. When asked how she could spend so many years focusing on the positive and never grumbling she stated, “What good would complaining do?” She showed a strength of spirit and character that, we believe, guided her through her life starting from that little town in West Virginia.
My mother accomplished a great deal in her life, such as: Vice-president of the Allendale High-school Student Council, Presidents of the Savannah Society of X-ray Technicians, Beaumont Junior Women’s Club, and Oroville Pilot Club, and an Elder of the Garberville Community Presbyterian Church. But, her self-professed greatest accomplishment was the family she created in her husband and three children. She loved us hard, sometimes almost too much, but none of us ever questioned, even for a moment, whether that love was constant, true, and unconditional. Her love was the foundation from which we launched our own lives, created our own families, and explored the people, places, music, and laughter of world. She lit up our lives and so many others in her 84 years on this earth. And, although our world will be a little less bright now that she has passed on, our loss is absolutely heaven’s gain. God just better have a lot of trees up there.
A celebration of life for Sue will be held on Saturday, March 28, 2020.
Memorial services will begin at 11 a.m. at Grace Lutheran Church located at 60 Rusk Lane in Redway, California. Fellowship and refreshments will follow immediately after at the Healy Senior Center located at 456 Briceland Road in Redway as well.
All are welcome to join Jim and their children in celebrating and remembering Sue’s life and legacy.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to make a donation to the Garberville Community Presbyterian Church or to the charity of your choice.
UPDATE: Memorial services for Sue Quast have been postponed to a later date, due to the COVID-19 outbreak
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