One of the world’s most beautiful and precious gems, a diamond is formed from humble carbon that—over time—is transformed by its surrounding. Then with skill and vision and patience, craftsmen create the brilliant coveted stones. Like a diamond in the rough, Susie Mabe came from humble beginnings to leave a legacy not measured in dollars, but in lives touched as one of the founding members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County.
The youngest of nine brothers and sisters, Thea Freida Mabe, or Susie as we came to know her, was born in Stugartt, Germany in 1941. Her father was a sheep herder in the Bavarian Alps, so every spring they would herd the sheep up the mountains to Oberstdorf, then to Eindosbach. There, the sheep would roam and graze until fall, before be herded back to Stugartt to be sheared for wool. While in the mountains, Susie would walk an hour each way to attend school in town and buy supplies at the market. When she graduated, Susie started working on the military base in Stugartt where she met her husband, moving to the United States in 1965.
Living in the United States, she learned English by reading Archie’s comic books, earning the nickname “Susie” when someone thought she resembled one of the characters. She and her husband Larry Mabe reared three children, Jim, Corinne, and Paul. As a young family, they moved around quite a bit and settled in Aberdeen in 1972. She worked mainly in the service industry, hostessing and waitressing, sometimes working two or three jobs. Eventually, Susie started her own floral business, “Flowers by Lucy,” with her son, Jim Weber.
“My mom taught me and my siblings the value in honest work,” remembers Jim. “She instilled in us that hard work and caring for others is the basics of everything that you do and that you will accomplish everything else you want from that. When she started the business, it wasn’t to make a lot of money—it was to help others.”
This same drive to help others led to her involvement in growing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County. When two of her grandchildren came to live with her, Susie looked for after school activities to keep them occupied while she worked at the store.
“The Aberdeen Club was just getting started,” recalls longtime friend and fellow board director Vi Ripken. “She was bringing in her kids and picking up neighborhood kids on the way. She was one of those people who when she saw something that needed fixing would just do it. Jerry Lacey, the board president at the time, asked her if she would consider joining the board—and she did—staying more than 20 years.”
“When my husband died in ‘99, we got closer,” says Vi Ripken. “She showed up at my door and said, ‘We’re going to lunch.’ I guess she thought I needed someone to pal around with.”
Twenty years is a long time to devote to a cause, but Susie never lost her enthusiasm or passion for the Clubs and its mission. Board member, Diane Smith, credits Susie with helping her find her own passion for the Clubs and its kids. She often sought out the tough wisdom Susie brought to the table.
“I first met Susie in the Fall of 2005. Vi Ripken introduced us at a board meeting. When I joined the board, I was focused on getting more money for the Clubs,” recalls Smith. “I came from a banking background, so understanding the fundraising issues was easy. But, Susie believed in the kids. She would say that money doesn’t solve the problems. It doesn’t do it alone. She taught me to believe in the kids and believe in the mission of the Clubs.”
“Mom knew what the Clubs meant to the kids who walked through that door,” says Weber. “She loved working with the people involved and who were volunteering their time for the future of the young people in Harford County. She loved the Clubs and what they stood for.”
To pay tribute to Susie and her life’s mission, Smith donated $10,000 to the Clubs in her honor. “I want people to remember her,” adds Smith. “She knew the kids needed a voice. She was quiet with her voice, but passionate.”
Susie worked tirelessly for the Clubs. She helped coordinate bus trips to Atlantic City to help raise money for the Clubs programs and promoted the Back-A-Kid Stock initiative. When Vi Ripken started her annual golf tournament, Diamonds in the Rough, Susie turned her attentions to those efforts as well.
“I worked with Susie for many years on Vi’s Golf Tournament. She was my partner selling the 50/50 raffles for this event. She was fun to work with and a very generous person. I will miss her tremendously,” says Vicki Bowlus.
Those that knew her best, feel that she was pleased with the growth of the Clubs—the progress it had made and the direction it was going. Though she was a staunch guardian of the past, helping instill a respect for the work that had come before in the new board members and volunteers, she was optimistic about the Clubs future and the work yet to come.
“She was very involved in the Steak & Burger dinners from the very beginning and her company, Flowers by Lucy, always donated the flowers,” says Diane Smith. “I joined the committee but Susie was cautious of ‘new’ members and their new ideas. She didn’t say much, but you knew she wanted you to listen, learn, and respect what had been done before. Once she made it clear that she didn’t like a decision I had made. The next day a bouquet of my favorite flowers, peach colored roses, were delivered to my home with a note telling me she was proud of me. She provided true mentorship to me and I had great respect for her.”
Vi Ripken adds, “Like anyone who is passionate about something, Susie sometimes didn’t agree with all the decisions, but overall she was very pleased.”
After Susie got sick, she still remained very involved in the Clubs board activities—albeit through her connections. “Although my mom was sick,” says Weber, “she still attended the meetings where she felt she could make an impact. She had her contacts that she could rely on to help with just a phone call. She was well-liked and still could make things happen.”
“I would go visit her when she couldn’t get around,” says Vi Ripken, “and she would always ask ‘What’s going on at the Clubs? What happened at the meeting?’ Then I would have to give her my synopsis of the events.”
Susie Mabe wanted to see more children helped by the great works at the Clubs. She continued to seek funding from outside sources, traveling many miles and knocking on many doors. She had a quiet determination to see that the children of Harford County were taken care of.
“Not many people have impacted my life,” admits Smith. “I respected her as person. We need to honor her and the work she did to help the children in our community.”
“Her legacy is her love of the Clubs and her faith in the people who believed in the Clubs’ ability to make a difference in the life of a child,” adds Weber. “I hope that she is remembered for that.”