Susan Bellows “Sukie” Rice

FREEPORT – On Friday, July 17, 2020, Susan Bellows “Sukie” Rice died peacefully in her Freeport home. She was 74 years old. Her life was richly lived – joyful and consequential.

Born in New Rochelle, New York, on November 1, 1945, to Charles D. Rice, a writer and humorist who worked in New York City, and Winifred Rice, homemaker “extraordinaire” and, later, real estate agent, Sukie spent her 1950s childhood in an old farmhouse in the country, an hour by train from Manhattan. There, her love of music, theater, cats, dogs, and the world of nature took root in the warmth of a loving home.

In the 1960s, after earning a B.A. in Psychology from Hiram College, she went to work for an advertising agency in New York City. She simultaneously immersed herself in the Morningside Heights Friends Meeting. The Society of Friends would become for Sukie a lifelong source of strength and inspiration. As Quaker values – simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship – grew in importance, her work in commercial advertising held less and less allure. In 1969 she left New York City and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In the 1970’s, Sukie worked initially at two Boston area hospitals. As the Vietnam War raged on, she also threw herself into a host of nonviolent civil disobedience antiwar actions, some of which led to arrest and one to a couple of weeks in jail. When the Vietnam War was ending, she joined the staff of the American Friends Service Committee. Allying AFSC with the antinuclear Clamshell Alliance, she helped train protesters and organize successive nonviolent occupations of the construction site of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

By the 1980s, Sukie had moved to Freeport, Maine, with her husband, Lee Chisholm. There they started a family. When her first child, Adam, was not quite three, she resolved with Lee to start a Waldorf School.

For the next several years she worked indefatigably, holding informational and fundraising events, pulling together a nucleus of founding parents, a teacher, and, eventually, a class. What thus began in 1984 as a little kindergarten of a dozen students continues today as a mature K ? Grade 12 school known as the Maine Coast Waldorf School.

In the 1990s, with her children now older, Sukie enrolled in USM for a degree in music education. For the next 20 years, she was a full time K – 5 music teacher in the Portland Public Schools. She also began acting with, and later musically directing, the Freeport Community Players. After a handful of plays and seven years annually performing Amahl and the Night Visitors, Sukie founded and for the next six years directed the Greater Freeport Community Chorus.

In 2002, Sukie started the Friends of Kakamega. Partnering with a handful of strong Kenyan Quaker women, and later men, to support the well-being and education of vulnerable children and young people in western Kenya, Sukie spent the last two decades of her life helping to give meaning and hope to hundreds of young Africans. True to character, she grew to know, love, and individually connect with both the children served by the project and the Americans who embraced the opportunity that Sukie gave them to help.

Along with her parents, she was predeceased by her older brother, Jim, and older sister, Jane. She is survived by her three sons, Adam, Ian, and John, as well as her husband, Lee.

A small, private burial in the Lunt Memorial Cemetery of the Durham Friends Meeting has already taken place. A larger Memorial Service will be announced when it is once again safe to gather, sing, and celebrate a life well lived.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Friends of Kakamega.

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