Susan Clancy’s calling was nursing, and it took her on many adventures in her life – from hospital and emergency and operating rooms to trauma centers and bush planes and telemedicine. Sadly, the adventures came to end with Ms. Clancy’s passing Feb. 11. She was 68.
At times, Ms. Clancy, who lived in Atlanta and grew up in Kingston, NY, was a jack-of-all trades in her nursing career. One of her more colorful and challenging jobs was working as a nurse practitioner in Cold Bay, Alaska, where she was the sole health care provider tending to the needs of weather station scientists, injured fisherman, and indigenous people living in remote areas hundreds of miles away.
Ms. Clancy was always understated about her work and her accomplishments. That’s because she valued, above all, her close and enduring friendships with a handful of best friends. Many were nurses. One was a dietician. Another was a teacher. Still another was a school psychologist. They considered themselves sisters, friends for life.
They were a close-knit group. Ms. Clancy affectionately referred to them “as six friends with stethoscopes,” even though a few did not work in health care. But truly they were more than that. In good times and in times of sorrow and ill health, they were there for one another as they tackled life’s twists and turns and joys together.
Their sisterhood played out in many forms – travel together domestically and to foreign shores, frequent gatherings for lunch and laughter and spirited discussions, and holiday and birthday celebrations in one another’s homes.
But their camaraderie -- and love --for one another perhaps manifested itself to its highest levels when one of them was struggling. In earlier years, it was Ms. Clancy who took a lead role helping one of her good friends. But in more recent years, it was her friends who steadfastly and selflessly helped her as she fought and overcame any number of serious health issues that knocked her down but never broke her or her spirit.
Ms. Clancy grew up in Kingston, NY, where her father, Thomas, was an architect, and her mother, Dorothy, was a registered nurse. She decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps and pursue nursing.
That led her to Georgia College in Milledgeville, GA, where she received a bachelor’s degree in nursing in the late Seventies. She stayed on and worked for a year at the local hospital, building her skills as a floor nurse before moving to the emergency room.
Ms. Clancy then relocated to Atlanta and worked at Emory University Hospital. She started on the weekend shift and attended college weekdays, receiving a second bachelor degree, this one in fine arts in interior design.
At Emory, where she worked for some 20 years, Ms. Clancy was at her best while assisting patients in their recoveries. She rose to become a lead operating room nurse. One coworker described her “as one of the most excellent nurses I’ve ever worked with.” She was a stickler for detail, punctuality and efficiency. And she made her views known on patient care. For example, she didn’t like it when a doctor or nurse was late for an operation for no real reason, and she not-so-subtlety expressed that.
Ms. Clancy also received two masters degrees from Emory University – one as a nurse practitioner, the other in public health. She used those degrees and made an adventuresome decision to work in Cold Bay, Alaska.
In Cold Bay, she sutured wounds, treated illnesses, and functioned briefly as a social worker, a psychologist and even a mortician until the experts were flown in. She would fly frequently in bush airplanes to remote areas to care for someone sick. Once, a family asked Ms. Clancy to treat their beloved sled dog, which had been mauled by a bear, and she did so by crawling under the house to patch up the dog.
Moving next to Anchorage, Ms. Clancy worked for several years at a company specializing in telemedicine in its nascent years, helping doctors and nurses to treat patients hundreds of miles away through the use of internet-connected medical boxes, and training others inland to operate them. One year, she was named employee of the year but largely kept it to herself.
When her father became ill in 2010, Ms. Clancy returned home to upstate New York to assist in his care; she had done the same for her mother in 1992 when she became seriously ill. While helping her father, she worked as nurse practitioner for Veterans Administration hospitals in Newburgh and Montrose, NY. One of her charges was to set up telemedicine sites in outlying areas to make it easier for veterans to access less intense health care.
About two years later, Ms. Clancy transferred to the Veterans Administration hospital in Atlanta, where she specialized in treating patients with traumatic brain injuries. She was back with her good friends, even though they really never had parted, calling each other, vacationing, and staying in touch.
Ms. Clancy loved animals and adopted a number of stray cats in her lifetime. She also was quite independent, practical, and sensible, but she could be a bit snippy in certain situations. She enjoyed rock music and going to concerts with her best friends. She journeyed practically annually to Woodstock, NY, to see Levon Helm pound the drums and rock the house in his barn concerts with a bevy of talented musicians. She also was fond of traveling, dancing, eating scallops and king crab, getting facial and pedicures, and gardening in her back yard, growing flowers and listening to the chirping birds.
And she loved her family, which she steadily extended over the years by surrounding herself with so many close and loyal friends like Lynn and Bernie, Cathy and Mary Beth, Mary and Mark, and Rena and Karen and Richard.
With her own family, she relished gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, surrounded by laughter and love and lots of food and banter at the table. She also delighted in spending time with her nephew in Georgia along with his wife and their three children. Then in late 2021, she was overjoyed when her niece gave birth to identical twin girls - she had become a great aunt again. At their christenings last August in Miami, she beamed with pride.
Ms. Clancy is survived by her brother and his wife, Douglas and Jane Clancy of Pompton Plains, NJ; a niece, Lauren Clancy of Miami; a nephew, Kevin Clancy of Gainesville, GA, and four great nieces and two great nephews.
She is predeceased by her parents, Thomas H. and Dorothy Clancy of Kingston, NY; her brother, Thomas D. Clancy of Kingston; and a nephew, Timothy J Clancy of Pompton Plains and Margate, FL.
Arrangements entrusted to Keyser Carr Simpson Hammerl Funeral Home, 326 Albany Avenue, Kingston, NY 12401. A funeral mass will be held at noon Feb. 21 at St. Joseph’s Church in Kingston, NY, with burial following at Wiltwyck Cemetery in Kingston. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to any no-kill shelter or sanctuary for cats.