Susan Harper Ritten
Susan shuffled off her mortal coil on June 22, 2023, age 61. A resident of the Twin Cities most of her life, Susan is thrilled to not have to deal with snow anymore, which really is a pity since she died in the summer. Like her eclectic tastes, Susan was a contradiction, a combination of learned and grounded, refined and irreverent, that made her truly one-of-a-kind. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.
Born in Minneapolis on the Ides of March, which we all should have taken as a warning, Susan was the middle daughter of four children and quickly found she could stand out with her talent for conversation. Her father would often hold her as a toddler as she babbled at him in baby gibberish, to which he would reply, "Oh, you don't say?" Even before she could actually speak, Susan always had something important and meaningful to say.
Her gift for conversation continued at Breck School, where she graduated among the top of her class in 1980, before continuing to Yale University, where she earned a B.A. in Political Science in 1984. She dazzled as an actress in productions of Bye Bye Birdie and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, among others. While she was a conscientious and brilliant student, her unique spark continued to shine, leading a friend of her to once describe her as "a shot of tabasco in a ketchup world." That she was.
After a successful career in marketing at newspapers including the Wichita Eagle-Beacon and the Chicago Tribune, Susan became a full-time parent, mostly so she could impart her children with a truly bizarre set of cultural touchstones. She shared with them 2001: A Space Odyssey, Zoolander, The Ref, Monty Python, The Snowman, The Carol Burnett Show; CDs of Steve Martin, Eddie Izzard, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Patsy Cline, the Jackson 5; and even readings from Greek mythology and Will & Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization. As a mother, Susan was both chauffeur (which she hated) and stand-up comedian (which she loved), shepherding two young children safely around town while simultaneously leaving them in stiches. One of her proudest achievements as a parent was at school drop off, where in stark contrast to load after load of dour-faced children exiting their vehicles, her children would quite literally fall out of her car laughing.
The sound of laughter would follow everywhere Susan went, not least because Susan loved to laugh and her own laugh could be generously described as a "cackle." That "cackle" was often heard at bars and restaurants around the western suburbs, where she would bribe all the waitstaff with homemade chocolate chip cookies, the recipe for which she had scientifically perfected. Visiting certain places with Susan was like being in the entourage of a Hollywood star. After several waitstaff at one venue screamed and ran up to Susan upon seeing her, another patron asked her, "Who are you? They didn't make this big of a deal when [celebrity] was here!"
Susan was a gifted storyteller, able to enthrall any who dared listen. She once described the plot of The Blair Witch Project to her niece with such terrifying fervor that she was unable to sleep for a week. When she later saw the movie as an adult, her niece was disappointed to realize Susan's re-telling was significantly scarier than the real thing.
Far more terrifying than any movie was being on the opposite side from Susan in a political argument. She never lost her interest in politics, and was steadfast and unrelenting in her beliefs, which she always backed up with the latest facts and news. Many had tried over the years to beat her in a debate, and all either failed or were won over in the end. She served on the Board of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and as a volunteer election judge, where she upheld her most deeply held beliefs in democracy and fair representation for all.
Susan is predeceased by her father, Laurence Harper, Jr., with whom she shared a special bond.
She is survived by her two children, Jack (fiancée Aubrey) and Maggie, mother Kathryn Harper, siblings Kathryn Harper Gilbertson (John), Larry, David (Steffany), and many beloved nieces and nephews who adored their aunt Susan.
A Memorial Service and Celebration of Life is planned for August with details to be disseminated to friends and family.
Memorials preferred to the Minnesota ACLU.