A creative force for the betterment of lives and powerhouse for social justice has died. Susan Kinney Baker Foster, a long time resident of the Upper Valley, died 17 January 2019, after months of illness. Susan was born in Gouverneur, NY in 1935, the only child of Harold and Mary (Kaley) Kinney. Her grandfather, Burt Orrin Kinney, founded the chain of Kinney Drugs and Susan and her father were both involved with the company for many years. She was instrumental in turning over the three generation company to its employees as well as establishing the Kinney Drugs Charitable Foundation.
To list her endeavors and enterprise would take a book. In her early days in Vermont Susan was a co-founder of The Learning School in Norwich, and an indefatigable participant in The Box Project, whose mission is to help people living in rural poverty. She was active in Democratic politics, both locally and at the state level. She served as one of only two women with now Senator Patrick Leahy on the State's first Criminal Justice Committee. Once arguing fiercely her point, Leahy whispered to her, "Stop talking, Susan! You've already convinced them." For years, she was on the Board of the Vermont ACLU and on the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the ACLU presented its David W. Curtis Civil Liberties Award to Susan "for her vision and courage in standing as one of its founding members". Susan was an enthusiastic and generous supporter of the dramatic arts (producing the New York City premier of Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge adapted to tell the story of a Syrian Muslim immigrant family, serving on the Board of Shaker Theatre as well as donating grab bars for people with disabilities in the bathrooms of Northern Stage's theatre, a collector of art and an avid visitor to art museums, large and small. In 2009 in honor of her late husband Chas, Susan donated a 212 acre sugarbush to the Upper Valley Land Trust, thus protecting it from development for the foreseeable future. She was a founder of Emerge, a guardian ad litem, and foster mother to many local children. Susan was an unofficial mother for many of Dartmouth's international students, who sent condolences from around the world, and one of whom named his child after her.
She read voraciously and had an extensive library. Many believed she was self-educated, but Susan was actually a graduate of Dana Hall School, Class of '52, followed by a raucous freshman year at Cornell and was invited by the college to take a year off. Forty four years later, Susan went back to college, graduating magna cum laude from Trinity College of Vermont with a B.A. in Psychology. In her cooking days she was famous for her Yankee pot roast and yeast rolls. She ran a quixotic and losing race for the select board in White River Junction, handing out practical bookmarks designed by a student at The Cartoon School depicting an open book with the slogan "You never have to guess what Susan is thinking!" Susan's colorful dresses were as bold as she was. She struggled with health problems in her later years but didn't let that keep her from believing in the grace and wisdom of doing all she could to make the world a little bit better.
She is predeceased by her first husband, Charles "Chas" Baker, a former math teacher at Gouverneur High School, and their son, David Charles Baker. Mourning her loss is her husband, Don Foster and his son Joaquin Foster-Gross, daughter Sarah Namazi, son-in-law Saum Namazi, daughters-in-law, Carolyn Uhle and Kelli Lynn Baker, cousin Linda Sibson, sister-in-law Jean Zorn and brother-in-law Stephen Zorn and their families. There is a far flung and extensive group of friends and acquaintances, including her caring circle from the First Universalist Society of Hartland, her dear friend and birthday twin Grace Harde, her "sister" Patty Talbot.
As is the family tradition, there will be a dinner held in early autumn at a local inn family members can gather from around the world. Contributions in Susan's memory may be made to Kinney Drugs Foundation, 29 East Main Street, Gouverneur, NY 13642,