Mrs. Susanne Boothe Wilson, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, friend, advocate, elected official, loyal servant, boron on Sept. 30, 1928 in Gonzales, Texas, to the late Maurine I. Boothe and the late William H. Boothe, passed away at home, aged 90 on Dec. 12 in San Jose, Calif. She graduated from San Jose State University in 1976. Susanne was married to the late Robert Munsey Wilson.
She was preceded in death by her sister, Maurine Boothe Griggs and spouse Rube; brothers, William H. Boothe and spouse Jane, and James Lee Boothe and spouse Jo.
Susanne is survived by her sons, William M. Wilson and spouse Victoria, Robert H. Wilson and spouse Tracy, and David R. Wilson and spouse Linda; and grandchildren, Jonathan Wilson, Kaitlyn Wilson, William Wilson, Amanda Wilson, Michael Wilson, Andy Wilson, and Christian Wilson. She also leaves behind her cat, Belle.
Susie was the daughter of a school teacher and her father owned Boothe Hatchery. She met her future husband Bob at a dance at the University of Texas during her freshman year. Her date was the emcee of the dance contest and he asked his friend Bob to take care of her. He did. They were married at her home in Gonzales on Dec. 21, 1947.
The Navy moved them to Virginia, then California where Bill was born, then back to Texas where Rob and David were born. She lived with her beloved sister-in-law Elisabeth and her husband Don in north Texas then came to San Antonio when Bob started working for IBM. Susie raised her three boys and was active in Laurel Heights UMC and various other organizations. Her brother Bill was heartbroken when she left Texas to go to California.
From those Texas roots, she brought to Santa Clara County a combination of egalitarian values, fierce determination, and country charm that bewitched and overwhelmed the valley’s political and economic establishment. They couldn’t ignore her; they couldn’t outvote her; they couldn’t intimidate her. All they could do was shake their heads and write a check to the YWCA.
Susie Wilson never proclaimed herself to be a champion of the underdog. She just insisted on being one.
She was a leader in the struggle to make opposition to racism a fundamental goal of the “Y” at the national level. Locally, people of color knew they could rely on her…on her steadfastness and on her passion.
As an elected official, she held responsibility for the wages, benefits, and rights on the job of tens of thousands of workers. During tough budget years (she became a County Supervisor right after the passage of Proposition 13), she couldn’t always give them what they wanted. But she always recognized the worth of the work they did, and she supported them and the unions that represented them in countless disputes and negotiations.
Susie was a trailblazer for women seeking to rise up and share in the highest levels of success in Silicon Valley. She knew that the first job of a trailblazer was to go first and show it can be done. And what a role model she became. Susie was a San Jose City Councilmember (1973-78), San Jose’s Vice-Mayor (1976-78) and County Supervisor from District One (1979-1990). She served as Chair of the Valley Transit District Board and was the first woman president of the Association of Bay Governments.
Trailblazers have a second duty — to help others follow in their footsteps, and this responsibility became a hallmark of Susie’s political life after she left public office. Susie mentored, counseled and campaigned for more woman candidates than anyone can keep track off. She was a feminist in the truest sense — assisting other women to advance their careers.
Following her years as an elected official, she continued to serve the poor and the powerless through other sectors. To Susie, the denial of healthcare to those in need was a tragedy that could and should be prevented. She became a board member of the Valley Medical Center Foundation and eventually its chair. The new Women and Children’s Center at VMC will be named in her honor.
Susie believed the path upward for those born without privilege was education, and she became a stalwart advocate for San Jose State University, where she received her BA in Political Science while already a San Jose Councilmember. She served on the Alumni Steering Committee of the Political Science Department; she became a member of the Spartan Foundation and was its president from 2004-2006. She co-founded the Walk for Women of Sparta which raised over 1 million dollars for women’s athletic scholarships over 10 years. In recognition of her dedication, she received the prestigious Tower Award in academic year 1995-1996.
Amongst all these extraordinary efforts, the YWCA always remained close to her heart. She started out at the Cambrian Park YWCA teaching sewing with her best friend Ruthadele Sarter. She was an active volunteer for 45 years. She chaired the Y’s capital campaign from 1990-1993. In gratitude, the Y named its 63-unit low-income housing development in downtown San Jose the Susanne B. Wilson Residence.
Throughout her lifetime of accomplishments, she touched countless individuals with her kindness and friendship.
Susie Wilson was a true rose of Texas, and the Santa Clara Valley was blessed that she blossomed amongst us.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Susanne’s name to the Susanne B Wilson Scholarship Fund YWCA are welcome and appreciated. Link: http://bit.ly/SusieBWilsonLegacy or https://ywca-sv.akaraisin.com/SusieBWilsonLegacy. Friends and family are welcome to attend the memorial service, officiated by Rev. Amy Beth Durward, on Saturday, Jan. 5, 11 a.m. at Cambrian Park UMC, 1919 Gunston Way, San Jose, Calif., 95124. Reception to follow.