The Remembrance Project: Susan Pernice

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Susan Pernice — “Supernice” to her family and friends, and “Ms. Nice” to neighborhood children — died January 2 in Westminster, Maryland. She was 54 years old, and had lived all but the last seven years of her life around Boston.

The heartfelt, passionate, and sometimes raucous person she became could not have been predicted from the shy child she was, second of six in Holbrook, Massachusetts. She used to hang back when her father wrestled with the other kids, and didn’t really blossom until after high school. That was when her bone-deep, defining generosity broke free of constraints. For the rest of her life, the generosity ran wild.

One exuberant act of giving led to another — meeting some wheelchair athletes in Quincy Market led to 27 years of volunteering at the Boston Marathon, coordinating over 1,500 other volunteers who manned the hydration stations along the route. She volunteered for the New York Marathon, the Jimmy Fund walk, the Walk for Hunger, the Breast Cancer Race for the Cure. It didn’t matter whether the event was for 30,000 runners or 15, and it didn’t matter that she wasn’t a marathoner herself. These were full-time unpaid jobs, and she already had a full-time paid job.

In her zeal, Susan knew everyone needed to volunteer, and she usually convinced them to feel the same way. Once, she offered the Susan B. Komen fund an Icelandic sweater with their charity logo, to be knit by her sister. She didn’t inform her sister, though.

"Supernice" couldn’t go into a gas station for a cup of coffee without coming out holding 10 toy trucks she’d bought for nieces and nephews. She donated so much blood her family worried about her medically. And then there were the dogs. When she was in treatment for Stage 3 breast cancer, her oncologist suggested a pet. Within a few years, she and her husband had five: each adored, with their own wardrobes, and seat belts for car rides.

In all the busyness, she found time for prolific communication. One of her sisters called her “the Pablo Picasso of social media.” She posted play-by-play coverage of Boston sports on Facebook and Twitter, and called family from Maryland to update them with traffic reports in Boston.

There are those whose gift for giving has no end. When Susan was just an infant and her mother held her, patting her back, the shy baby used to reach up and pat her mother’s back in return. After her death, her liver and both kidneys were given to others.

Did you know Susan Pernice? Share your memories in the comments section.


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