ForeverMissed
This memorial website was created in memory of Susan. We will remember her forever.

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues,

It is with deep sadness that I report the death of Susan Littleton Murphy on February 27, 2021. After a decade battling Alzheimer’s and respiratory disease, my dear wife of 50 years passed away at 77. As she wanted it—in her bed at home, peacefully, her hand in mine.

Susan was a woman of great talent who had a knack for creating beautiful things, whether it be stunning landscape designs, handmade dollhouse furniture, exquisite handwritten notes, or the special relationships she formed with several ‘adopted’ kids. Her work—and her friendships—were a marvel to behold.

Susan was also a woman of great determination who refused to let her life be defined by a disease. She loved to travel and so we visited relatives in North Carolina and Florida—and we traveled to Paris, Lake Constance, and Bavaria, cruising cobblestone byways with Susan in her wheelchair. Susan never felt sorry for herself and never gave in.

In this moment of sadness, I hope we can celebrate a life well-lived. This website provides the space to tell your stories, offer tributes, post photos and videos, and just reminisce about a wonderful woman.

Thank you for being part of our lives, for your support, and for helping us remember and celebrate Susan’s life.

With gratitude,

Jerry

Posted by katherine merseth on April 2, 2021
Susan Murphy was one of a kind. Fun, patient, thoughtful and inquisitive. I remember her fondly. She was a great partner to Jerry across his various roles at HGSE. An important member of the community--always welcoming and lovely. I am sad for you Jerry and send you love 
Posted by Alisa Pascale on March 28, 2021
There is virtually no phase of my life that wasn’t touched, influenced or nurtured by Susan Littleton Murphy. We were not related by blood but she was a very beloved aunt and second mother to me.

• As a preschooler there were tea parties and mouse clothes, made by Susan.
• Through elementary school there were trips to the doll house store where doll house furniture and decorations were discussed at length, later to be executed at the little house on Strawberry Hill Road Susan sent me wonderful letters in her perfect handwriting, including one on a goose egg. She told and wrote imaginative stories, including one about our dog Shadow digging holes to China.
• In middle school she gave me hair perms and taught me not to overuse conditioner. Around that time Susan and Jerry’s nephew J2, my friend Catherine, and I managed to adopt Susan and Jerry a cat (Tom) by feeding him from our picnic lunches, made by Susan and eaten in the unfinished portion of "hen house."
• When I was a teen and my own mother was uncool, Susan took me clothes shopping every fall, and we came home with bags full of (mostly purple) clothes.
• In college when I took a summer class at Monticello, Susan talked to me about Jefferson and growing up in the South.
• In my 20s as we walked through historic houses, antique stores and gardens together and she taught me about classical architecture, history, and beauty.
• In my 30s I was one of Susan’s fortunate adopted children who she took to visit her favorite little hotel in Paris! We walked and walked and she showed me her favorite museums and gardens. I will treasure that trip always.
-    She advised me when I bought my first fixer-up house. She encouraged my early efforts at gardening – suddenly all those boring conversations about gardens that my mother and Susan were always having made sense.
• Susan helped me design, decorate, recover, and rearrange furniture too many times to count – it was one of my favorite things to do with her. She had such vision for beautiful tableau and I loved seeing the latest arrangements in her own house.
• She gifted me with hand-me-down furniture, curtains, housewares and fabrics that I still use today. (Did Jerry ever know where these things were going off to??).

Susan’s landscape expertise helped me place fences, design a dog pen, solve a tricky problem with our deck and steps. Now that I am a gardener, too, I have precious clumps of rare grape scented Iris and pink Lily of the Valley from Susan’s garden.

With Susan I could talk about my divorced parents, my awkward phases, my friendships, my marriage, and she would at once make me feel loved and supported while also put in my place -- lovingly. 

Even as Alzheimer’s disease began its slow insidious unraveling of Susan’s amazing mind, she could still see and do so much. But as Alzheimer’s made things harder for Susan, I had to learn to do things without her. In this new phase of Susan’s life (and mine), I was still learning from her, realizing that I could take the things she had taught me and muddle through on my own, with just her lessons, words and encouragement in my head.

Susan was always an important role model. She was one of the strongest women and feminists I knew. She could design a garden and dig it. She could scrape the paint off a chair and decorate a house. She could entertain dozens, setting the most elegant table and flowers, and then could sit down next to her guests and converse knowledgably on many topics. Susan saw right through pretense. She listened well and understood deeply.

I also knew that Susan had heartbreak, struggles and losses, that at times she was exhausted, and sometimes needed a break from it all; and toward the end of her life Susan had to face Alzheimer’s disease. In adversity Susan also taught me about life and living. Susan had within herself remarkable emotional strength and resilience. Despite her own life challenges, Susan had the generosity to give of herself to me and so many others and to do it with grace and love.

I will cherish Susan and her many gifts forever. Having deeply touched me at every phase of my life so far I have no doubt that she will continue with me in spirit for the rest of my life journey.
Posted by Janet Rothrock on March 22, 2021
Susan made a landscape plan for the front of our house soon after we moved in in the late 80's. I still think of her when I see those rhododendrons bloom. And the year I organized a surprise play for my husband's 40th birthday I somehow persuaded Susan tp persuade Jerry along with Ellen and Rick to go along with my fanciful plan.  Susan was such a good sport!
Posted by Kreegs LKreger on March 18, 2021
Susan was such a great dear friend to my sister Ellen, it is so sad to lose her. My heartfelt to condolences to all...
Posted by Judith Singer on March 14, 2021
Dear Jerry,

I have such fond memories of you and Susan. She was such a gracious host for all the events you two hosted when you were Dean. Losing a spouse is always hard; losing a spouse during the pandemic is quadruply hard. My thoughts are with you. 

In sympathy,
Judy
Posted by Alison Bullen on March 14, 2021
Colour charts! I remember Susan so kindly advising Howard and I when we were renovating our house in Cape Town. She had such good taste, and you both were so kind to us when we visited you all those years ago. Wonderful memories of Table Mountain as well. Take care Jerry
Posted by jerry murphy on March 11, 2021
The following death notice, with more details about Susan and her family, will be published in the Boston Globe on Sunday, March 14, 2021.

LANDSCAPE DSIGNER WITH A KNACK FOR FRIENDSHIP

Susan Littleton Murphy, age 77, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, died peacefully at home on February 27, 2021 after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Susan was born in Baltimore, Maryland on October 4, 1943 to Thomas and Josephine Littleton and grew up in North Carolina. She graduated from Jacksonville High School and immediately moved to Washington, D.C. Her first job was working for the FBI, where a vigilant fellow worker reported Susan to her boss for reading Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment during her lunch break. The Agent-in-Charge kindly helped Susan move on—and she found the perfect job for a lifelong avid reader, stacking books at the Library of Congress. Later, she worked for U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.

While living in Washington, Susan met her husband of 50 years, Jerry Murphy. They were married in Montrose Park by a renegade priest during a thunderstorm. Amid bolts of lightning, a nervous friend played his electric guitar and sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Susan and Jerry moved to Massachusetts, living in Cambridge and then Concord, where in the early 1970s they bought a rundown 22-acre farm, sold four lots, and put about half of the land into a conservation trust. Susan remodeled the tiny farmhouse, turned a chicken coop into a studio and an office, and made the fields look like a park.

Later, they returned to Cambridge where Susan graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Radcliffe Landscape Design Program. She started a thriving landscape design business and later devoted her efforts to supporting Jerry as the new dean of the Harvard Ed School. Susan oversaw the design and construction of a new dean’s house and a wonderful garden near the Harvard campus, and with great panache organized dozens of fundraising dinners.

Along the way, Susan also spotted an inexpensive summer house in Orient, New York--and said, "Let's buy it!" Jerry replied, "Oh, Susan--absolutely not. It needs too much work." Susan prevailed, renovated the house, redesigned the landscape, and transformed the property into our dream home of a lifetime.

Susan had a knack for creating beautiful things, from stunning vistas to special relationships. She was a loving daughter, sister, wife, god mother, aunt, and friend. She graced strangers with her kindness, and she formed tender bonds with the children of family and friends. She made us all feel loved, heard, and understood. Susan was a “bolt of lightning,” says her sister Cynthia, who had a gift for helping us see possibilities in our lives we could not see.

Susan is survived by her husband and her four siblings: Betty Lou Littleton of Jacksonville, NC; Joan Leslie Cornwell of Fairmont, GA; Tommy Littleton of Swansboro, NC; and Cynthia Guy of Swansboro, NC. Susan’s ashes will be scattered this spring at private gatherings at four of her favorite places: Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA; Orient, NY; Deerfield Beach, FL; and near her childhood home in North Carolina. If you wish to offer tributes, post photos, tell stories, or learn more about Susan, visit https://www.forevermissed.com/susan-littleton-murphy
                  
Posted by Lisa Lenox on March 10, 2021
Jerry,
We are so very sorry for your loss. When I met Susan in the early 80's I had no idea what an important part of my life she would become. Susan's talents were many her knowledge of life and landscapes were unmatched. Throughout the many projects we worked on together and over the many years Susan guided Lisa and I through life and business and always there with love and support. At times Lisa would bring our children Lindsay and Brian to the jobs for a visit and Susan would just light up when she saw them. We are going to miss you Susan, the world would be a better place if there were more people like you in it.

With Love
Dan, Lisa, Lindsay and Brian Lenox
Posted by wendy angus on March 10, 2021
Jerry--I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your beloved Susan. What an amazing person and rich life lived, together. May her memory always be a blessing.
Posted by Ellen Quackenbush on March 9, 2021
Susan had so many impacts on my life. From, along with dear Jerry, agreeing to sell Rick and I the 4 acres of land (it was not on the market) where we built our house and had the great privilege to be Susan's and Jerry's next door neighbor. Susan stepped right up to help Rick and I installing our kitchen counters and, YES (see my picture), driving our backhoe.

When Rick and I decided to start a family and went through frustrating in vitro fertilization treatments, Susan--always the wise one--asked us why we just didn't adopt. I was in my second year at MIT's Sloan School of Management, but somehow that simple solution never occurred to me. Book smarts aren't everything!

Susan accompanied Rick and I on our private plane flight (Rick is a private pilot) down to JFK to pick up Alex. I was a nervous wreck and Susan was the voice of calm. When I recognized Alex being wheeled up the ramp by his Korean escort, I was overwhelmed. THEN, I realized that I had brought orange juice, not formula. Susan, quietly, intervened and got some formula from another adoptive couple. There were about a dozen couples awaiting their Korean adopted children.

As Alex grew up, Susan was the one who bought him "stylish" clothes and sewed him a gorgeous cape for his birthday. She was instrumental in making Alex a happy and thoroughly loved boy.

When Rick and I were invited to Jerry's and Susan's parties for Jerry's grad students, Susan made her stunning Country Captain and held her own about British and American authors with those Harvard folks! She was a true intellect--self-taught and driven by the true love of learning.

Thank you, Susan, for all you did for me and my family!
All my love,
Ellen
Posted by Mark Agerholm on March 9, 2021
Among all my relatives, Aunt Susan was the one that never spoke to me like I was a child. When I was very young, I imagine I said some very childish things, and when I was older I certainly made many immature declarations, but Aunt Susan's tone was consistent. There was always a reasonable dialogue to be had, no matter the silliness of its basis, and it usually left me feeling like I had learned something of importance, something that traditional educators either ignored or couldn't communicate. She always had an experiential anecdote ready for any topic of conversation, and her off-the-cuff stories were told with the elegance and suspense of a Jane Austen novel. Aunt Susan was blunt, honest, and wise, and when she spoke, I listened, either to learn what would happen next in her story, or to find the underpinning truth in her words that was relevant to learning something about myself. Those conversations would strip away the immaturity of my initial mentality, and when she saw a flash of intelligence in me, she determinedly mined it for everything she could. Many of my own personality traits and talents, those of which I am most proud, were directly influenced and developed by my Aunt Susan. I have always idolized her for her intellect, wisdom, and dignity, and I hope that she is proud of the man I am, the man that she helped create. She continues to inspire me today, and she will for as long as I live, and I will impart that inspiration to my own children.

I love you, Aunt Susan. You will always be with us.
Posted by Joan Cornwell on March 8, 2021
Hi, Joan Leslie here, another sister of Susan's. There are so many things to say and stories to tell. I just have not been able to narrow it down so that it is not a book so I will let you in on some little known facts about my amazing sister. She twirled a baton in high school and was a member of the marching band, playing the alto clarinet. She built her first tree house when she was about 10 and would sneak away up there and read when she was suppose to be doing chores. We had many pets and of course Susan had a family pet cemetery with hand decorated brick tombstones. She was always building and decorating. My favorite memories of Susan were the ones when she decided to be goofy. She was hilarious and I still chuckle at some of the things she did! I loved her very much and miss her so already. She was always there.
Posted by Cynthia Guy on March 8, 2021
I am Susan’s youngest sister. Thirteen years divide our ages. 
Nearly a generation apart. I could write a book about my life with Susan.
To tell you about the Susan I know. Maybe someday I will.
For now, I will share with you my first memory of my sister. 
Cradled in her arms.

The time has come,' the Walrus said,
   To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
   Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
   And whether pigs have wings.'

Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” (1871)


Posted by Maria Brisk on March 6, 2021
So many memories don’t know where to start. Enjoyed the dinners and conversation first in the tiny apartment in Cambridge when we first came, then in the beautiful Concord house, where Jerry run at the last minute to pick fresh corn, and finally at Kirkland place. I always followed Susan around and learned new things. I was in awe of her as an entertainer while Jerry was dean. She delighted me with her stories of how she managed. To the very last visits Susan was full of spirit and joy. How much I will miss her.

Most of all I am so grateful of how good she was to our daughter Angelica, who loved spending time with Susan and Jerry while we travelled. She would return home with all kinds of things that Susan had made for her and fun stories of playing and chasing geese. I still have the mice with the little dresses, blankets and others that Susan made for her. I played with them with Angélica’s own daughters. Still have them ready to be passed on to the next generation. Susan you’ll be with our family forever.
Posted by Martha Murphy on March 6, 2021
Hi Jerry! This is Marcella using Martha's e-mail. For me, the best way to write ABOUT Susan is to write TO Susan. So, here goes:

Dear Susan,

What can I say? There's so MUCH to say and I'll probably use a lot of capital letters and exclamation points to say it! 

First of all, GOOD JOB! You were an amazing person, right to the end. Mainly, I think about all the people you helped (me included). We all relied on you at one time or another and you were always there to help us sort out the confusion and find our way. And you weren't just nice. Your help often CHANGED LIVES! You know that saying, "Love is a verb?" Well, you were the embodiment of that sentiment. I don't think I've ever known anyone more generous than you - with your hugs, time, work, love, money, support and especially your willingness to really listen when we needed to be heard.  You were our go-to person. Just ask "your kids."

As great as that was about you, there were SO MANY!!! other things that you've done, with your signature style of course, that made you truly remarkable. A partial list could include: all the exquisitely penned letters and architectural drawings, houses made into homes, garages and chicken coops made into offices and studios, gardens designed - AND planted, books read, events hosted, unusual places lived, guests welcomed, advice dispensed, integrity modeled, good fights fought, and dazzling intelligence and courage demonstrated. When I think of those things and so many others, I am moved to say - - - DANG IT, GIRL! YOU ARE MY HERO!
 
Oh, Miss Susan of the pearl necklaces and meticulously ironed linen shirts, of the fierce opinions and outspoken beliefs, our kindhearted Susan, our dear girl. What will we do without you?

We will chuckle about all our adventures. We will surely yearn for you at the door. Hopefully, we will hold ourselves to high standards, as you taught us, by example, to do.  WE WILL MISS YOU.
 
Thank you for marrying that cute boy scout - Jerry Murphy, as you called him - and thus becoming a part of our family. You took good care of each other for a long, long time. I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love and attention you showered on us, especially on my mother and sons. Your love was reciprocated in full measure. I hope Gunnar was there to meet you at the pearly gates.

I'll say goodbye for now but you are our ongoing blessing. Our blessing and our precious treasure.
                           XOXO marcella


P.S.
Here's a little attempt I made to reflect a typical 24 hours spent with Susan:


What could be better
than crusin' with Susan down
to the fish store to

get some fresh fish

At the store they all
know her. Big smiles all around
then off to the Thrift Shop

where bargains are found

what could be better
than reusin', with Susan
the junk she's transformed

into treasure  look! now it's art!

before you know it
it's displayed in her home where
the cat's on the couch

and the dog has a bone there

what could be better
than schmoozin' with Susan
in front of the fire

snow falling outside

drink lovely tea, eat
a small piece of chocolate then
bedtime already

like it or not

what could be better
than perusin' with Susan
her to-do-next list

over breakfast

build kitchen shelves then
upholster a couch and
read Wolf Hall in a day?

No sweat for Susan
who could be so amusin'
I guess she was built that way!




Posted by Martha Murphy on March 6, 2021
When I first met Susan I knew God had sent someone special into my life.
Susan gave gifts of love, understanding and hope to everyone she met.
Thank you for these precious gifts. I will treasure them forever.
Thank you for taking such loving care of J2. He is a good man because you helped him in his time of need. He loves you very much.
You will always be in my heart.
Love, Martha
Posted by Nancy Anderson on March 5, 2021
Back in 1967, Susan Littleton befriended me and helped me feel at home in the Capital Hill neighborhood in D.C., where I was a newcomer. Shared laughter became a strong bond, often turning into the convulsive giggles that are impossible to control. And good talks, of course - lots of talk! Especially when either of us needed a break, and we'd take my VW Beetle across the river to explore the Virginia countryside.

It was sheer joy to be part of Susan's simple wedding to Jerry Murphy on a Saturday afternoon in early June 1970 in Rock Creek Park. The night before we were busy finshing her dress. That morning at the Eastern Market we found gorgeous flowers that we fashioned into bouquets.

And I lucked out as Jerry moved Susan to Boston. I inherited not only the bargain rental house first occupied by Jerry, then Susan - but also Jerry's wonderful German shepherd, Shanty (shown in picture with Susan).

Two years later Susan was my best woman. Subsequently, I moved west, and, by mail and phone, she helped see me through despair and divorce.

For years thereafter, we lived our mostly separate lives, with sporadic contact. It was such fun to hear Susan's warm voice on the phone, brimming over with enthusiasm for a person, project, or place - or all three.

And after we at last reconnected in person, in Orient in 2012, we enjoyed a friendship deeply enriched by time and experience. Jerry included, of course. But not when Susan and I would get in the car, as so long before, to go explore.

Thank you, Jerry, for your beautiful tribute to Susan, the many pictures, and the opportunity to share our stories. In several of the pictures Susan is wearing an outfit she bought the last time we were together. I've been with you all week, so to speak.

And thank you, Susan Guy, for your pictures and comments about the aunt who loved you so dearly.
Posted by Karen Demaray on March 4, 2021
Dear Jerry, I’m so saddened to hear the news of Susan’s passing. When my step-dad Sloan first told me about his dear friends Jerry & Susan, I didn’t know I was about to be introduced to two of the most generous and kind people I’ve ever met. I will alway remember her by your side, with her beautiful smile, always trying to make me and my family feel welcome. My husband Chris and I, along with my Sister Nathalie and mom Clara, send you our love and deepest condolences. May your memories together bring some solace in this difficult time.
With love, Karen
Posted by Rosemary Downer on March 4, 2021
  In 1982 when Jerry assumed the position of associate dean joining Pat Graham in the Dean’s Office at HGSE, I knew that as Jerry’s assistant a critically important aspect of my job would include interactions with Mrs. Jerome T. Murphy but at that stage Susan was a complete unknown to me. Susan immediately put me at ease. From day one and continuing until Jerry stepped down as Dean in 2001, I learned Susan was all those things others have written about her: she was an excellent cook, landscape designer and gardener, antique hunter, seamstress, avid reader with informed opinions, savior of stray kittens, warm and welcoming hostess, kind and generous, funny and fun loving and most of all, a truly supportive partner for Jerry.
  One of my earliest memories was the day Susan called the Dean’s Office from Long Island where she and Jerry shared a house during those few, precious stolen moments away from the demands of the job at Harvard and urban life in Cambridge. She said she was engaged in some painting. Envisioning Susan with canvas and easel in front of a lovely vista, she laughingly set me straight. No, not that kind of painting (although I knew she was quite adept with an artist’s brush), rather she was painting trim boards up on the roof reached by a ladder. Susan wasn’t afraid of heights, getting paint on her hands and clothes or worried about getting sunburned or having her hair mussed up by the wind. Tough, practical, independent, confident and skilled.
  Over the years Jerry and Susan brought skills from different sides of the aisle to their partnership and always complementing, sharing, caring, and supporting each other. What terrific role models. Jerry, I am sorry for your loss but may your memories sustain you in the difficult days ahead.
Posted by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot on March 4, 2021
Mostly I remember Susan as a gracious and generous host, someone who made all of us feel welcome and comfortable when we entered her beautiful home, always filled with flowers. As the partner of the Dean--whom she loved with all her heart--she played that role with grace and alacrity. But she never disappeared into that role. She was always present, authentically herself...warm, witty and attentive, sometimes mischievous and irreverent...never taking herself or the occasion too seriously. I relished the times when Susan and I would occasionally escape to the quiet of the kitchen for our backstage conversations about life and love, books and adventures, politics and poetry, gardens and beauty...serious encounters always punctuated by raucous laughter. Susan was a woman of warmth and wisdom, empathy and insight and we will all miss her deep soulful way of being amongst us.
Posted by David Hirshberg on March 3, 2021

The first time I met Susan was in Jerry’s office at Harvard while I was having my first meeting with Jerry as one of his first advisees. As she, somewhat impatiently, waited for us to finish, I couldn’t figure out who she was since she seemed clearly too attractive to be Jerry’s wife. But Jerry finally introduced her to me as his wife. Then she smiled her beautiful smile and graciously welcomed me into their life.

Susan and Jerry soon started their tradition of having lawn parties at their Concord home for his graduate students and their spouses/significant others. My wife-to-be, Arlene, came to the first party and Susan and she became fast friends. When we moved nearby two years later Susan became a central figure in our lives.

Arlene remembers Susan as the big sister she never had. Quoting Arlene:


“She gave me ideas about the house and design - she was my Martha Stewart before I even knew Martha Stewart existed. Her house - the fabrics, vases, flower arrangements - was done just right, everything was presented beautifully, even simple things were made beautiful.”

“She introduced me to antiquing; she loved the hunt and took me along. We explored barns and out of the way shops in Littleton, Concord, and Acton. At some point we would stop for coffee at Bergson’s in Acton and later hang out together in her garden or her den. She showed me projects she was working on -sewing, painting, installing new cabinets. And she loved to tell stories about books, family, and living in NC. Those times together were precious to me.”

“When I was a new mother and was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t figure out how to take a shower, she came right over and took care of Rachel so I could have a little time to take care of myself. Over the years she became Aunt Susan. She had our family over for visits regularly, highlighted by years of Christmas Eve dinners that our kids still remember fondly.”

“Perhaps Susan’s most lasting gift to me is an appreciation and love of gardening. Her gardens in Concord were amazing. I watched her work and rework her garden for years. I had never seen a garden expand before. I never knew the names of flowers. She introduced me to all of it. Then she designed gardens for our home in Boxborough and for David’s school, Germaine Lawrence.”

“Now I am a gardener. I have extensive gardens in Vermont that I have worked on intensively since my retirement. When I garden now I always think of Susan and wish she could be there and see my garden. I finally understand her love of gardening and I wish I could have shared my love of gardening with her. And I will always grow Cut and Come Again Zinnias.”



Posted by Terrence Tivnan on March 3, 2021
Susan was always so welcoming and nice! She set a high standard for being friendly and helping people to be at their best. She contributed a lot to students and faculty and staff, at meetings and formal events and also at informal gatherings. What a wonderful person. She always stayed quiet and friendly and kind. 
Sending lots of good wishes your way,
  Terry Tivnan
Posted by Catherine Snow on March 3, 2021
Jerry, all of us who were on the faculty during your deanship remember what a wonderful hostess Susan was, how much she enjoyed (or effectively feigned enjoying) holding parties at your wonderfully convenient house that was perfectly designed for hospitality. She was a fantastic partner in all your endeavors.
Catherine
Posted by Deena Barlev on March 3, 2021
What the Light Shines Through
A Healing Blessing

Where pain
does not touch you.
Where hurt
does not make its home.
Where despair
does not haunt you.
Where sorrow
does not dwell.

Where disease
does not possess you.
Where death
does not abide.
Where horror
does not hold you.
Where fear
does not raise its head.

Where your wounds
become doorways.
Where your scars
become sacred maps.
Where tears
become pools of gladness.
Where delight
attends your way.

Where every kindness
you have offered
returns to you.
Where each blessing
you have given
makes its way back
to you.
Where every grace
gathers around you.
Where the face of love
mirrors your gaze.

Where you are
what the light
shines through.

~Jan Richardson
The Cure for Sorrow
Posted by Susan Guy on March 3, 2021
I am not sure where to even begin... she was such an incredible person. My aunt was a second mama to me...she taught me so many things! She taught me how to be independent and go after your dreams!!! I remember her making me call the airline when I was 13 to verify my reservation. for my flight from Boston back home. I balked and whined I didn’t know how to do it or what to say and she said “well you will know after this call!” She instilled a love of culture and travel in me... She explicitly taught me how to navigate Paris all on my own! Aunt Susan inspired me to understand the power of reading books, knowledge, and education and how your life circumstances did not have to be your life circumstances. She was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known, and oh how I admired that!!!!! She taught me the power of giving and lifting others and the immeasurable love that comes from kindness with no expectations or strings attached. Aunt Susan had no biological children BUT she had MANY MANY children, including me, that she loved deeply. Aunt Susan was loyal to a fault and loved fiercely! She showed me the meaning of true, meant-to-be love in the way she loved Uncle Jerry. That kind of love is unique hard to find! She taught me so much about life and how to navigate all of it’s complications. She would stay on the phone with you for hours to help you through a crisis no matter how big or small. And I LOVED the notes and letters I would get in the mail...they were always written so beautifully! And of course she taught me how to shop!!! Most of these experiences I would never had encountered if not for her... I could really go on and on...she was THAT person to me. Oh my heart aches from her loss, but I know that she has now been given all her memories back and she is smiling down on us! 2/27/21 Susan Littleton Murphy an incredible, wonderful, loving, mentor and Aunt.
Posted by Richard Murnane on March 3, 2021
I have so many pleasant memories of interactions with Susan, some going back to 1983, when I joined the HGSE faculty. Our sons still remember a meal at Jerry's and Susan's and how kind Susan was to them.

My most vivid memories of Susan come from the decade of the 1990s when Jerry was Dean of HGSE. During Jerry's tenure as Dean, the University had a Capital Fund drive. This meant lots of events for potential donors, a great many of which were in Susan's beautiful garden and in her and Jerry's warm, inviting home on Kirkland Place. While the potential donors shared the characteristic of having deep pockets, they had widely varying personalities. Susan charmed them all and made them feel as if they had to support our school. As a result, Jerry and Susan raised twice as much money for HGSE as the central administration thought possible. I will miss Susan. 
Posted by Vivian Cruise on March 3, 2021
We love you both. From Roger and Jerry’s childhood in New York to our worldwide adventures from Cambridge to orient to paris we looked forward to our precious times together...Susan was always ready to join in anything anywhere : remarkable woman.❤️
Posted by Pat Richardson on March 2, 2021
I have so many wonderful memories of adventures with Susan. We gardened, traveled, antiqued, and boated with Jerry. She made doll house furniture with my daughter. Susan exuded joie de vivre in everything she did. 
As I thought about her yesterday, a cardinal perched outside my window. Susan, was that you?
Posted by Julie Reuben on March 2, 2021
Jerry,

I am so sorry for your loss. While I only know Susan from the large gatherings you hosted for the faculty at your home when you were Dean, I remember clearly her warmth as welcomed us to her home, her kindness as she engaged me, a new person to HGSE, and the love in her eyes as she looked up at you. 

Warmly,
Julie
Posted by Marcelo Suárez-Orozco on March 2, 2021
Dearest Jerry,

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours in these times of loss and sorrow.

Susan was a beautiful person: humane, witty, purposeful and ever so loving with our little Lucas. We have unforgettable photos of the two of them building the magic tree house in the back yard of 11 Kirkland Place. And so much more -- our times together in Orient, cooking, laughing, forming memories and telling them. We loved and cherish the decade we were next door neighbors.

Yours ever, Marcelo, Carola, Lucas and Marisa
Posted by Noel McGinn on March 2, 2021
Dear Jerry,
    I remember Susan well, and with sorrow for you at her passing. You two lived many interesting years together and over time, despite the continuing uniqueness of your personalities, came to share many ideas. Although you have said goodbye, perhaps more than once, her presence embedded in you continues to emerge, and will continue to do so for some time, I imagine. I have spent the last two months of Mary Lou's absence, missing her more, not less, as I become more and more aware of how much I was changed over the years, changed in my thoughts, in my speech, in my feelings about others. The experience is somewhat disconcerting, sometimes stirring up feelings of regret for times of inattention, sometimes lowering my self-esteem for missing opportunities to show appreciation, most often these past few days delightful gratitude and peace. We have been fortunate to have been chosen as companions by such exceptional persons. I pray that your sorrow will morph into fuller awareness of the gift you have been given. Noel
Posted by Susan Moore Johnson on March 2, 2021
I first met Susan in 1977, when she and Jerry welcomed his doctoral advisees to their house in Concord for an afternoon picnic, featuring hotly-competitive badminton games, which Jerry organized (and usually won). Susan’s beautiful gardens and Jerry’s geese were star attractions. As a student, it was wondrous to leave Cambridge and enjoy a fun, relaxing afternoon in the country with them and my fellow students. I remember Susan’s kindness and intense interest in each of us. It turned out that these were annual getaways and over time I came to know Susan’s candid, feisty side as well. She liked having fun. At one of these parties, she and Glenn, my husband, suddenly broke out in a full-throated rendition of Randy Newman’s “Short People.” I can’t recall why that happened, maybe a response to a badminton loss.

In the years after I joined the faculty, I enjoyed talking with Susan at pot-luck dinners with colleagues and formal HGSE events. When Jerry was dean, he and Susan graciously hosted many fundraising dinners at their home in Cambridge. There, various luminaries and “people of means” sat around tables as my colleagues and I talked up the school and encouraged donations. Susan was warm and attentive, but also subtly sardonic, making sure that the honored guests felt well-cared for and the rest of us had some fun.

I last saw Susan a few years ago at an HGSE reception. We sat at a high table in Gutman drinking wine and catching up. When a waiter came by to refill our glasses, Susan declined politely and explained with a wink. “You know, when you have Alzheimer’s, you only get one glass of wine.” I’ll remember her clear-eyed candor and miss her company.



Posted by Fernando Reimers on March 2, 2021
Thanks, Jerry, for the opportunity to share thoughts in memory of Susan. My first memory of her is in Conroy Commons in the early 1980s, when she joined you --then associate Dean-- in an evening celebration of international students. She was curious and clearly appreciative of the stories we all brought to Cambridge from distant places. Years later, after joining the faculty, she and you were the first HGSE colleagues to welcome us to your home, at a reception you hosted. It was a crowded party, still Susan's warmth as a hostess made it intimate and welcoming. Over the years I would meet Susan at various places, Askwith fora, somebody's graduation party, a colleague's birthday party. She was a real champion for the HGSE community and enjoyed the stories --including yours, or maybe perhaps especially yours-- which thread the life of a community. In recent years your devotion to her care have been a testimony of the beauty and power of your love for each other, who gave so much of yourselves in service of others. What a gift to have known her and to have been a witness of your love for her.
Posted by Jean Murphy on March 1, 2021

SUSAN THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNIQUE LAUGH. IN MY HEART FOREVER I HEAR THAT GIRLISH GIGGGGGLE.... MIXED WITH A GRAND DAME SOPHISTICATION. UNIQUE.  PRECIOUS.

THANK YOU DEAR ONE
BIG LOVE,
JEAN
Posted by Pamela Brooke on March 1, 2021
Jerry, thanks for this space to share a few words about Susan. I’ve loved reading the things others have shared here and the memories they’ve sparked. Susan and I first met in 1966 when we were both 22 years old and trying to find our place in East Coast urban life (Susan from North Carolina and me from Oklahoma). Over the years I learned that once Susan befriended you it was for life, regardless of how divergent those lives became! Her unconditional acceptance of her friends was the glue that held us together even though most of our interaction was long distance. The Susan I knew and loved was passionate and intense. She had a ferociously independent and gifted intellect, was true to herself even when (or especially when) there was pressure to conform and, above all else, was a wonderful storyteller! Everything and everyone in her life was woven into the stories she created even though she denied she was a writer. Her handwriting was as exquisite as her imagination and I often wondered what was in those beautiful journals she kept when we were young. I treasure every memory of Susan’s unique spirit, but have one anecdote to share here that anyone who ever traveled in a car with Susan likely experienced. She never met a “historic marker” that could be ignored in passing. You had to stop the car so she could read every word and if you knew Susan, you knew the next half hour or so was an inevitable discussion of all the details and her own personal associations with this newly acquired history—which were many!! My life is immensely richer for having experiened Susan’s love, generosity and endless enthusiasm for life. 
Posted by Robert Suntay on March 1, 2021
I will always remember the first time I was welcomed into Susan and Jerry's wonderful home. I was a doctoral student and very honored to have been Jerry's TF and RA at the time. In addition to Jerry's wanting to get to know me more, he said that Susan was also keen on meeting my wife! So I brought my dearest wife, Jackie, with me and Susan met us at their door, accompanying us so very warmly and even excitedly into their beautiful home! What followed was a magical evening spent telling stories about places near and far (Jackie and I are from the Philippines, and the Murphys are serious globetrotters!). I was particularly touched when Jackie and I shared with Susan and Jerry that while we both were so happy to be at Harvard (Jackie was in the Medical Program), we were also saddened because both our fathers - and Jackie herself - were battling cancer. I will never forget Susan taking our hands and saying with so much compassion and empathy that everything was going to turn out for the best and that she would keep us all in her mind and heart. Truly, while all three of my loved ones passed away in the following two years, Susan was absolutely correct: today, 15 years later, I can sincerely say that everything has, in fact, turned out for the best! I will always be grateful for her words, her grace, her kindness and compassion - not to mention her cooking that evening! Thank you, Jerry, for introducing Susan into our lives! We are all so much the richer for it! And forever shall she remain in our hearts! In fact, she and Jackie are probably having a cocktail and a conversation right this moment! :-)
Posted by Patricia Graham on February 28, 2021
Such a wonderful, warm, and gifted woman! She had such talent in so many ways. I will always remember with great appreciation going to the New England Flower Show in Boston many (40+) years ago and benefitting from her ability to explain all the flowers to me, how and why the arrangements were displayed, how they might have been displayed better, what their native habitat was, and many other characteristics. I was entranced by her knowledge. Her aesthetic taste extended to her household where her knowledgeable eye arranged a room so that it looked exactly right - a place to live but also a place of beauty. Susan also had a remarkable capacity for friendship. She had devoted friends of all ages from many backgrounds. When one met Susan, one encountered someone who was genuinely interested in you and your experiences, a rare quality. Finally, Susan was a reader. She enjoyed a host of materials, and she was able to tell you what the book was about, why she liked it, why you might or might not like it and what pleased her most about it. She was also quite capable of advising you not to read something and giving you excellent reasons for her recommendations. Finally, she was absolutely devoted to Jerry, who brought her great joy. 
Pat Graham








Posted by Bob Kagey on February 28, 2021
Jerry,
My heart goes out to you. When we met as a group I could always hear the deep love and caring in your voice. Such a loss for you but I am sure so many wonderful memories that must carry you forward. 
Bob

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Recent Tributes
Posted by katherine merseth on April 2, 2021
Susan Murphy was one of a kind. Fun, patient, thoughtful and inquisitive. I remember her fondly. She was a great partner to Jerry across his various roles at HGSE. An important member of the community--always welcoming and lovely. I am sad for you Jerry and send you love 
Posted by Alisa Pascale on March 28, 2021
There is virtually no phase of my life that wasn’t touched, influenced or nurtured by Susan Littleton Murphy. We were not related by blood but she was a very beloved aunt and second mother to me.

• As a preschooler there were tea parties and mouse clothes, made by Susan.
• Through elementary school there were trips to the doll house store where doll house furniture and decorations were discussed at length, later to be executed at the little house on Strawberry Hill Road Susan sent me wonderful letters in her perfect handwriting, including one on a goose egg. She told and wrote imaginative stories, including one about our dog Shadow digging holes to China.
• In middle school she gave me hair perms and taught me not to overuse conditioner. Around that time Susan and Jerry’s nephew J2, my friend Catherine, and I managed to adopt Susan and Jerry a cat (Tom) by feeding him from our picnic lunches, made by Susan and eaten in the unfinished portion of "hen house."
• When I was a teen and my own mother was uncool, Susan took me clothes shopping every fall, and we came home with bags full of (mostly purple) clothes.
• In college when I took a summer class at Monticello, Susan talked to me about Jefferson and growing up in the South.
• In my 20s as we walked through historic houses, antique stores and gardens together and she taught me about classical architecture, history, and beauty.
• In my 30s I was one of Susan’s fortunate adopted children who she took to visit her favorite little hotel in Paris! We walked and walked and she showed me her favorite museums and gardens. I will treasure that trip always.
-    She advised me when I bought my first fixer-up house. She encouraged my early efforts at gardening – suddenly all those boring conversations about gardens that my mother and Susan were always having made sense.
• Susan helped me design, decorate, recover, and rearrange furniture too many times to count – it was one of my favorite things to do with her. She had such vision for beautiful tableau and I loved seeing the latest arrangements in her own house.
• She gifted me with hand-me-down furniture, curtains, housewares and fabrics that I still use today. (Did Jerry ever know where these things were going off to??).

Susan’s landscape expertise helped me place fences, design a dog pen, solve a tricky problem with our deck and steps. Now that I am a gardener, too, I have precious clumps of rare grape scented Iris and pink Lily of the Valley from Susan’s garden.

With Susan I could talk about my divorced parents, my awkward phases, my friendships, my marriage, and she would at once make me feel loved and supported while also put in my place -- lovingly. 

Even as Alzheimer’s disease began its slow insidious unraveling of Susan’s amazing mind, she could still see and do so much. But as Alzheimer’s made things harder for Susan, I had to learn to do things without her. In this new phase of Susan’s life (and mine), I was still learning from her, realizing that I could take the things she had taught me and muddle through on my own, with just her lessons, words and encouragement in my head.

Susan was always an important role model. She was one of the strongest women and feminists I knew. She could design a garden and dig it. She could scrape the paint off a chair and decorate a house. She could entertain dozens, setting the most elegant table and flowers, and then could sit down next to her guests and converse knowledgably on many topics. Susan saw right through pretense. She listened well and understood deeply.

I also knew that Susan had heartbreak, struggles and losses, that at times she was exhausted, and sometimes needed a break from it all; and toward the end of her life Susan had to face Alzheimer’s disease. In adversity Susan also taught me about life and living. Susan had within herself remarkable emotional strength and resilience. Despite her own life challenges, Susan had the generosity to give of herself to me and so many others and to do it with grace and love.

I will cherish Susan and her many gifts forever. Having deeply touched me at every phase of my life so far I have no doubt that she will continue with me in spirit for the rest of my life journey.
Posted by Janet Rothrock on March 22, 2021
Susan made a landscape plan for the front of our house soon after we moved in in the late 80's. I still think of her when I see those rhododendrons bloom. And the year I organized a surprise play for my husband's 40th birthday I somehow persuaded Susan tp persuade Jerry along with Ellen and Rick to go along with my fanciful plan.  Susan was such a good sport!
Recent stories

Goslings

Shared by Kelly Pickle on March 21, 2021

It's difficult to explain how I feel about Susan and I've been unable to do so as of yet.
As Susan's personal assistant of the past decade or so Susan took great delight and showing me her favorite things and sharing memories with me.
I remember her showing me this with delight and telling me about the geese.

For me it is quintessentially Susan.
Shared by Sheila Littleton on March 3, 2021
My Aunt Susan always inspired me to want to be more intellectual as she was the most proper and intelligent person I have been around. She always took Alicia, Tyler, and myself to books-a-million when she would visit. She would let us pick out anything we wanted as long as it wasn't a picture book. When I was lucky enough to go to Boston to see her she sparked a passion in me for exploring and visiting new places. She knew I was obsessed with learning about Egyptian culture and brought me to see my first real mummy in the musuem. We played in the rain puddles, learned to play croquet, and ate dinner in the garden. It was always incredible to be in her presence. I wrote many stories and essays in school about my trip to Boston. For a long time it was my favorite place in the world, thanks to my exciting trip to see Susan and Jerry. 
Shared by Jerome Sommers on February 28, 2021
My story 
starts approximately in 1975 I went for a short visit with uncle Jerry and aunt Susan I ended up staying for 2 years if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t be where I am now they taught me to be motivated ,think and be proud. I always envied the positive energy Susan always gave out   Though we didn’t talk often I always thought of her when I got myself in different situations she certainly Helped to  make me the person I am today and my heart is broken that she is gone love you forever J-