It is with a deep sadness that I learned of the death of Sue Campbell, the day after she passed away. I met Sue when she was a postdoctoral fellow at Queen’s University, where I was an assistant professor, in the early 1990s. During that time we became friends–not especially close, but more than cordial–but over the years we did become closer friends, in part due to my moving to Edmonton in 2000, which was coincidentally Sue’s home town (even if she had left years before), and in part to a confluence of interests around memory, trauma, and feminism during the past 10 years. Apart from social visits to Edmonton, we had caught up semi-regularly at conferences and workshops, including one organized by John Sutton in Sydney late in 2004 which first got me thinking more about collective memory and connecting that up with work I had done on appeals to “group minds” in the biological and social sciences. Sue’s “Relational Remembering: Rethinking the Memory Wars” was already out at that time, and it was a book that I would draw from in teaching a mixed upper-level undergraduate / graduate course in early 2006.
Sue gracefully agreed to be a member of the Living Archives on Eugenics team a few years ago, even though her health situation was uncertain. She was a member of the team of scholars and activists working with the sociologist Claudia Malacrida on “Collective Memories of Eugenics”. I saw not only Sue’s insights about trauma and memory as being of much value to this team, but also her active involvement in the “truth and reconciliation” process then underway in connection to the history of residential schools for native and First Nations children in Canada. That made her an ideal person to also work on our “Post-Eugenic Futures” team with community leader Nicola Fairbrother.
We last met in person in October last year, where we had just under two very pleasant hours at her favourite cafe in Halifax. It was the best two hours I spent during almost a week there–though I’m not complaining about any other forms of Haligonian hospitality in saying that. It was just the kind of mixture of professional and personally intimate yet reseved conversation that I had always valued in Sue, a conversation peppered with the occasional outrageous joke that is seldom appreciated by (let alone made by) Canadian academics, who on the whole wear clothes that are a little too tight. But Sue was loosely outfitted, and more comfortable in being fully human than most. She is missed already.
Reflections on Sue are welcome in the comment thread. My sincerest condolences to Jan, Katie, Sue and Rich, and other close family members and friends, especially in Edmonton and Halifax. Below is the obituary that appeared in Halifax Herald on February 14th, written by her family:
Campbell, Susan Leslie (Sue) – 54, of Halifax passed away on Saturday, February 12 at the Victoria General Hospital, surrounded by her loving family. Sue was a teacher, a philosopher, and a genuinely kind person. As a philosopher and teacher, her generosity and great courage illuminated the world for so many; as a loved one and friend, she showed us all grace through the trying times and humility through the good. Her sense of humour—sometimes dark, sometimes gentle—could always be counted on to make the emotion of self-pity impossible. Sue was a member of Dalhousie’s Philosophy Department since 1992. She truly enjoyed students and was moved by their efforts to become thoughtful adults. Sue was a valued colleague and devoted mentor in both Philosophy and the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. She was a passionate gardener, a lover of bad movies, coffee shops and beer, a rescuer of wild flowers, a poet, and a proud cabin owner.
Sue was born in Edmonton and completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy at the University of Alberta. She received her doctorate from the University of Toronto. Sue is predeceased by her parents Pat and Bill Campbell, both of Edmonton. She is survived by her loving partner, Jan Sutherland, and her beloved sisters Katy Campbell (Rick Roder) and Lori Campbell (Barry Snell), by her precious nieces Jesse Campbell and Courtney Wells (Parker), and great-nephew Xander. Having come from a sociable family, Sue’s friendships meant a great deal to her and, in particular, Rocky Jacobsen, David Checkland, Susan Sherwin, Shirley Tillotson, Duncan MacIntosh and Ami Harbin were stalwart to the end. Mention must also be made of Stanley and Sugar, the pets who brought Sue much comfort and joy over the years.
The family wishes to sincerely thank the nurses and doctors of 5A for caring for us all with such compassion and gentleness.
Cremation has already taken place. Family and friends will gather to celebrate our good fortune at having known Sue at Charlie’s Club, 5580 Cunard Street, Halifax from 6-8 pm on Thursday February 17th. A memorial for family and friends in Alberta will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sue Campbell Scholarship Fund c/o Ben McIsaac, Development Office, Dalhousie University, MacDonald Building, 6300 Coburg Ave., Halifax, NS B3H 3J5. Online condolences may be made through http://www.cruikshankhalifaxfuneralhome.com.