Susann Pelletier

LEWISTON – Susann Pelletier, 70, died on Sept. 15, 2022, at her beautiful home of 38 years, in Lewiston, surrounded by her loved ones, the vast flower and vegetable gardens that she so carefully built and tended, and the love and care from a wide circle of support from her community in Lewiston and beyond. She was born on Sept. 7, 1952 to Theresa and Lionel Pelletier and grew up on the Lane Road in Greene.

Susann was diagnosed with stage four urothelial cancer in April 2022, and was overtaken by the disease sooner than any anticipated prognosis.

To know Susann was to be moved by her in some way: by her poetry, her love of nature, her kindness or her vision for a gentler world. She was a tender, intense, and trusted confidant. She was a guide and mentor to many. A sense of justice was critical to her life’s work. Susann was resilient and independent and she had true vision, hopefulness, imagination and wonder. In her final months she felt, and frequently expressed, immense gratitude for her rich, well-lived and well-loved life.

Susann traveled throughout her life, enjoying the challenge of learning a new history, language and culture as a window to self-knowledge and compassion for others. Travel was also a value and joy she shared with her husband of 38 years, Jim. The two enjoyed everything from a day trip to their favorite Maine coastal spot, Bailey Island, to international travel across Europe, Mexico and Central America. Jim and Susann fostered each other’s spirit of adventure and exploration, well into their retirement. They traveled to Iceland where they witnessed epic waterfalls and entirely new landscapes, flora and fauna. In 2019 and 2020 they traveled to Costa Rica where Susann and Jim lived for five months. With discipline and commitment, Susann taught herself Spanish in that time, with special motivation to speak with the farmers at the market and learn local gardening practices and new plants to love.

Back in Lewiston, Susann was active in her community and close to her family. She demonstrated an ongoing commitment to social justice, education and to the arts. She served on the Board of Directors of the Maine People’s Alliance and of L/A Arts. Susann strived to build community in large and small ways. If someone was sitting alone at a meeting, Susann would join them. As a daily reader of the obituaries, Susann loved learning about the lives people led and how they navigated this world; she appreciated most the tributes that painted an honest picture of a life. She was an observer, an attentive listener, and an empathetic, intuitive, non-judgmental soul.

An avid bargain shopper, Susann took great delight in finding new thrift stores in the community, an activity she shared with her daughter, and closest companion, Genevieve. Susann and Genevieve shared a passion for the natural world, cooking, gardening, and preserving and the two spent countless hours each season working together to cultivate prolific vegetable gardens, and then canning and preserving the bounty to share with friends and family. Susann’s pickles were unmatched.

Susann was an accomplished writer and her first love was poetry. She began writing poems when she was 11 years old. The daughter of a carpenter and a seamstress, poetry was Susann’s vocation, her gift, and one of the many ways she made the world more beautiful. Her poems, which have been translated into French and Spanish, gave voice to her deep connection to family and place in Franco-America, and to a vibrant vision of social justice at home and beyond. Her great mentor, John Tagliabue, predeceased her but remained influential and present in her creative energy. Her Poetry Group was central in the later years of her life, and those connections were an inspiration to her.

Earlier in her career, Susann worked as a journalist for the Maine Times and The Maine Progressive, as well as several publications in Chicago, Ill. She shared her talent and her passion for words with the young people at USM, where she taught for a number of years, before teaching for 10 years at the Writing Workshop at her Alma Mater, Bates College. There, she met many people who became important and consistent parts of her life.

Susann will live on in countless ways big and small: the values and skills she passed onto her beloved family, her students, and community; her contributions to social movements for peace and dignity for all; the legendary victory she and her daughter secured through their French culinary prowess at a homespun Maine Top Chef competition; the ways she effortlessly made every setting more beautiful with her artistic eye, and of course, through her writing.

In remembrance and celebration of Susann’s clarity and love, here is one of her most-widely shared poems:

“Immigrant Dream I”

Back then,

the city where I was born

Gave little comfort.

It shook me with the clatter of looms

And night machines,

Blinded me with that immigrant dream


Angry flames in

men’s eyes,

Soot and smoke in the bars

And on the altars

The stuff baked into

daily bread.

When I read that the quality of mercy

Is not strained

Or how music is the

food of love,

Fair Portia, beneath the wide, white porticos

Did not appear,

Nor Orsino on that

Illyrian bank.

The dews of heaven

did not rise

Sweet strains did not fall

And I saw only the

tired stream

Of men and women

Treading through

snowy streets

To the factories.

French people who built cathedrals—

LaMontagne, DeBlois, Thibault—

Their backs stooped now

With the weight of

the dream,

Each carrying a

black lunchbox.

Not trowels, mortar

and stone

Or loads of

shimmering glass

Not skeins of silk,

wool, linen

For the woof and weft of

a thousand flowers,

Virgins and homed horses.

Not even my father, once

A boy with no boots in the Maine winter,

Understood why the people were tramping

Over the old bridges

And gathering at

mill doors.

But, then, my father is a maker of whole things

(Houses, fences and gates,

Tables and chairs

Cupboards and counters)

And when his saw sang through the board

And his hammer

drove the nail,

The din of those mill machines was stilled,

I heard the sweetest strains of labor

And I saw how

a world is crafted

By two steadfast hands

Susann was predeceased by her parents; and her sister, and best friend, Nancy Reynolds, with whom she shared a love for gardening and enjoyed countless walks and talks together.

She is survived by her husband, Jim Lysen; her daughter, Genevieve Lysen, both of Lewiston; and her brother, Norman Pelletier, of Chesterville; as well as many nieces, nephews; cousins; and many more in this community that consider her family.

Susann and her family have been humbled by the significant outpouring of love and support during this difficult time, and want to express their deepest gratitude to all who have been present these last few months and now.

The family would also like to thank all the thoughtful healthcare professionals at Dana Farber in Boston, New England Cancer Center in Topsham and at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, for their service. They also wish to thank the Androscoggin Home Health and Hospice staff for supporting Susann’s return home, where she was able to pass with her family.

Susann’s celebration of life service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 10:45 a.m. at Trinity Church in Lewiston.

Condolences may be expressed at and

In lieu of flowers,

donations may be made to L/A Arts or the Maine People’s Alliance.

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