Real Change Vendor Susan Kelley passed away Oct. 9. She was 58.
When I interviewed Susan in August 2009 for a vendor profile, she gave me this advice: “You can sit and snivel and complain about things that you have no control over in your life, or you can just go forward with it. For me, going forward’s worked.”
A former kindergarten teacher, Susan was struggling at the time with increasingly severe symptoms of multiple sclerosis. She sold Real Change at the Walgreens near 15th and Republican on Capitol Hill, rain or shine, and everyone in the neighborhood and at the store knew her. The location was convenient because she rented an apartment right around the corner, which allowed her to take rest breaks when she needed to. Some days, the pain and fatigue kept her in bed.
But, as she explained in our interview, selling the paper and seeing her regular customers gave her a reason to get up out of bed.
I was always delighted to see Susan at the office when she came in to purchase papers. She would greet me with a warm smile and a loud “How are you, darling?” Then, each time before leaving: “Have a good one, doll!”
Susan was well-loved on Capitol Hill. When she wasn’t selling Real Change, she enjoyed taking her granddaughter out on the town. To this day, her daughter Darla is known as “the Real Change lady’s daughter.”
Over the past two years, Susan came to the office less frequently and eventually stopped selling the paper altogether.
Her friends and fellow vendors, Calvin and David, gave us updates on her health. Customers called to check up on her. She was fighting lung and brain cancer when she passed away.
We will always remember Susan for her loving presence, lively nature and strength through it all.