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Obituary of Sue Elizabeth Zane
Sue was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on July 23, 1933 to Walter Adam Cooper and Mildred Marguerite Cooper (maiden name, Carl), and passed away peacefully, surrounded by family on May 30, 2019. She is survived by her husband, Richard Zane; son, Daniel Zane, his wife, Beverly Zane; granddaughter, Brooke Bronson, and her husband, Mike Bronson; granddaughter, Stacy Thomas, and her husband, Bryson Thomas; grandson, Scott Zane; great-granddaughter, Savannah Bronson; her brother, Walter Revilo "Rev" Cooper, his wife, Janice Cooper, and his three sons, Brian, Dale and Martin. She was preceded in death by her mother, father and younger brother, Gary Cooper.
The Cooper family migrated to Arizona in about 1936 when Sue was two years old. They were heading for Phoenix but the car broke down in Albuquerque. Being “dirt poor,” they stayed there about a year. Later they finally made it to the Phoenix area. They began to farm turkeys in Scottsdale and got to be known as “Turkey Coopers.” They later expanded into cattle and pig ranching, as well as some crops. Around 1944, her mom and dad’s marital problems reached a point where they knew they had to do something so they decided that a third child could save their marriage. Well, it didn’t. Her dad disappeared and left her mom with a young teenager, a tween, a baby, and a farm to work without him. Her older brother, Rev, said, “Mom, I’ll work the farm” but she thought he was too young. They pulled up stakes again and landed in San Bernardino, California.
At some point, they reconnected with her dad and his new wife. When Sue was in her teens, she and her little brother, Gary, lived a short while with their dad, who had become an active Baptist. She went through a wild stage and rebelled against her dad’s restrictions. She was a quite, stubborn child and had no spiritual appreciation at that time in her life, and her dad’s efforts to save her just irritated her. She remained non-religious till the mid ‘60s.
Tragedy struck in the late ‘50s. Sue’s little brother, Gary, was a special person. A very bright, curious and athletic young man. He researched biology and the effect of chemicals on the body. That led him to experiment with drugs found in common weeds. He made a tea that sent him into an hallucination for three days. Later, one and a half days. Some months later, he had an apparent “flash-back.” While happily preparing for a scuba diving trip, he went home, wrote a note (the wording seemed a little twisted), grabbed his rifle, drove out to the desert, and killed himself. Gary was only 17. This loss would make Sue question how a God of love could allow such a tragedy. Later in life, she seriously wanted to know the answer to that question.
About 1950, Sue met a cute guy just down the street. Richard and Sue were married in 1951.They had their son, Danny, right away and that fact kept Richard from being inducted in the Army during the Korean War. Having common personality traits is usually a good basis for a happy union, but being wild is not one of them. They had a rocky relationship but ultimately their love for each other never died and they always worked their way back to each other. Sue battled with addictions to tobacco and alcohol through most of her early years, and Richard was no saint, but they gradually realized that there things in life bigger than themselves.
They moved to Garden Grove California in 1959. They became more concerned about social and political issues. They were shocked at learning just where the world was heading and felt they needed to get involved. For a few years, they and their son were involved with conservative political groups, having meetings in their home and canvassing neighborhoods. After a few years of that, they became discouraged. It seemed that the world was heading down a one-way path and there was no human solution. It could have been this disappointment, coupled with the addictions, that brought both of them into a period of depression and straining their marriage to the breaking point.
In a moment of despair Sue was ready to seek help from any source, even a spiritual one. She prayed sincerely that if there is a God, for Him to send someone to help. Well, within a few days, the Mormons showed up at the door. She felt that if this was the answer to her prayer, she couldn’t turn them away so she listened to what they had to say and allowed them to return later. In the meantime, a few days after that, Jehovah’s Witnesses came. Well, if this was the answer, she had to listen to them too. This gave her options to compare. It didn’t take long before she decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses had a more logical and informative teaching. She studied with them and that helped her to make incredible changes in her life. She stopped smoking “cold turkey” and moderated her alcohol intake and eventually lost the desire to drink at all. She also became a more loving wife and mother.
After about a year, Richard, while benefiting from her change in personality, realized that it was her faith and what she was learning was responsible. He was skeptical of their teachings though. His curiosity grew and one time, while he was unemployed, he happened to be home during her study. He secretly listened from the other room and questions started to weigh on him. Finally, he just had to come out and ask. All his questions were answered logically from the Bible. Learning from non-Jehovah’s Witness sources that God’s name is Jehovah was a real turning point in his life. He joined his wife in her study and soon he and their son both began their own Bible studies, which changed their whole life courses individually and as a family. Their family tensions didn’t totally disappear but they became manageable. The thought that they had joined a worldwide loving, peaceful brotherhood was very comforting. They had found a purpose in life bigger than themselves.
The family was baptized together on May 11, 1968. As their knowledge and love for God grew, they increased their activities in spreading the Good News. They all spent time on a monthly basis in teaching others the hope of inheriting a peaceful earth forever as Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” –Matthew 5:5 KJ, AV. Sue had not only awakened her spiritual side but introduced a love of God to her family (including her mother and aunt), which saved them from unimaginable heartache. Sue, Richard and Dan each conducted Bible studies with others and had the joy of seeing some grasp the good news with both hands and begin their own ministries. Sue’s words of wisdom touched many hearts. One of her expressions was, when someone would be feeling hopeless and temped to compromise Bible principles to resolve an issue, “Don’t cheat yourself out of a miracle.” As she put on the Christian personality, Sue learned to turn her stubbornness into steadfastness.
Richard served as an elder for many years and Dan served as a regular pioneer (full-time ministry) for a while. Sue saw her three grandchildren dedicate their lives to Jehovah. Her two granddaughters’ husbands currently serve as elders and one was able to pioneer with her husband for several years. In short, Sue’s life started with stormy seas and, with dedication and hard work, she and Richard were able to turn that boat around and create a heritage for their family that was nothing short of smooth sailing by comparison.
Sue made clothes for her family even at a young age. Throughout her life, she explored other mediums of arts and crafts that brought great joy to her and others. In the early ‘50s, she took a pottery class and that really appealed to her special talent. She continued to express herself in a variety of crafts but ceramics/pottery was her favorite. Dan enjoyed helping and learning this skill along with her and has built up a couple pottery studios that he and his wife have worked together and are currently making hand thrown coffee cups.
Sue became interested in porcelain dolls in the ‘70s when those gained popularity as collectables. Dolls really challenged her skill but, as always, she excelled. She began teaching friends for free. Dan’s wife, Beverly, was quite artistically inclined and jumped at the chance to learn such a beautiful art. Beverly eventually began selling her dolls at doll shows and even won a blue ribbon at the Puyallup State Fair among quite a few entries. Sue was always looking for new and interesting ways to express her talent. She even made plaster molds of her granddaughter’s faces and made porcelain dolls of them and you should see the ornately sculpted bird houses she made. And dinnerware…she had obtained some Franciscan Ware collectables. When the Franciscan Ware factory in California was closing down they were liquidating their blems at a big discount. She bought a few and re-fired some, fixing glazing blemishes. She even made a lid for a tureen that matched the set perfectly. Potters know that it is extremely difficult to make a lid to fit a finished bowl.
That brings up another very unique aspect of Sue’s skill. She had almost no learning curve. Family members can only think of one time that one of her projects failed. One time she over-fired some doll heads and they melted. She was not very technically minded but she could just feel how to accomplish whatever she wanted to do.
When Sue felt inspired to create a project, nothing could dissuade her. One time, she saw a palm tree stump in a field and wanted to make a sculpture out of it for her new Polynesian patio. Her husband and son knew if they didn’t help her load it up and bring it home, she would figure a way to do it herself. It was quite an undertaking but a success nonetheless. She saw a live hornet’s nest in Montana and had to have it. She bagged it and wrapped the bag around the exhaust pipe of the truck to kill the hornets. It worked mostly but all the way home an occasional hornet or two would be seen flying around in the camper.
Back to the Polynesian patio, they had to break up the old concrete slab to pour the new one. Sue saw something beautiful in all those broken concrete chunks. She stained the concrete and stacked the chunks in a mound just right to form a beautiful waterfall. She then planted exotic plants so thick that you couldn’t see the wood fence just four feet from the patio. You were truly transported to a land far away. On top of that, she found a dead orange tree and instantly had a plan for it. Tying it to the corner post of the patio, she planted a bottle gourd vine next to it. When it grew, she entwined it throughout the tree limbs. It looked for all the world like it was a bottle gourd tree.
Speaking of flowers, Sue truly had a green thumb. From exotic plants to wild flowers, she loved them all. In certain seasons, she would go out and collect seeds from wild flowers. There was a stretch of highway through the Riverside Canyon that the family would travel often to visit Sue’s mom. It was dry and desolate and Sue had had enough. She had collected enough seeds, and scattered them over several miles of the median. Of course they grew beautifully and spread year after year; California Poppies, Snapdragons, Daisies, etc.
Camping was a favorite activity for the family. Sue was great at creating all the comforts needed, from wind breaks to rigged-up outhouses. She could cook gourmet food in the wild. You could see her clever imagination brighten in her eyes when she went somewhere or saw something new. Her fearlessness (or recklessness per your point of view) led to many adventures.
In the early days of their life in Garden Grove, they bought a small run-about boat. It got used nearly every weekend during the summer. Courage is usually a good thing but The Zane Family took their adventures a little far. That poor little 14-foot boat took the family through choppy waters that could capsize a cabin cruiser, and it was full-throttle all the time. Three times the boat would launch off the top of one tall swell just to nosedive into the bottom of the next, submerging most of it…but it seemed to always pop back up, wheee. They didn’t know the danger until one day they got a chart showing the different flags at the Harbor Master’s office. There was that flag they often saw when they went out to sea; it meant “small craft warning.”
Sue always knew she would suffer dementia later in life. It ran in her family. First, it showed itself in spiritual ways. One of the things that attracted her to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses was that they are not too proud to learn. They are always adjusting procedures to be more efficient and adjusting Bible understanding to be more accurate. As Sue aged, she found it more difficult to keep up with adjustments. She never lost her devotion to her Heavenly Father though, and faithfully attended all the meetings.
Sue was always a great communicator and it must have been very frustrating to have trouble finding even simple words. She seemed to do her best to keep a sunny disposition. In the last couple years, she progressively found it difficult to recognize people, even family. She sometimes recognized her husband but sometimes he was just that man who was supposed to watch over her when her husband was away. She would ask him, “What is your name?” or “Don’t you have your own house?”
Her dementia brought out a kind of impish and mischievous side of her. A quest for adventure seemed to drive her to sneak away. Once, while pretending to take a nap on the sofa, she stuffed a blanket with pillows to make it look like she was there. Then she started to head out the door, but alarms had been installed so family members were alerted. Once, before the alarms, she did make it a couple miles in the middle of the night. She wore a long black coat and hid in the bushes when the police came looking for her. They saw her glaring white shoes and brought her back home. Later the next day, near the evening, she said, “Well, it will be dark soon and then I can HIT THE ROAD.”
She recognized her house but felt it was an exact duplicate of her original house (knickknacks, neighbors, trees, cars etc. all identical). At first, the original house, in her mind, was in California. Later it was just a few blocks away. The family asked if she would direct them to that other house. She said, “Sure.. She directed them to her son’s house, then directed them back to where they came from and said, “See, everything’s identical” (trees, neighbors, cars, etc.) You can’t argue with that logic.
In spite of declining mental acuity, she pressed on nobly. She was able to function remarkably well up to the end, even though a scan showed that about a third of her brain was lost to dementia. She did mental exercises to help her mind. She would practice reading anything (grocery receipts, random instructions etc.) to try to keep her vocabulary. She would memorize landmarks so she could stay oriented. She always seemed to know where she was.
Her last couple months were more pleasant. Longer days and more sunlight seemed to anchor her mind much closer to reality. Sue and Richard were seen often holding hands and enjoying each other’s company. They loved to take drives, whether it was out to the peninsula, down to Portland, or just to the store. It seemed to help her to visit family who always came to her support for whatever she needed, whenever. Savannah, her granddaughter, was a real bright spot in her life. Her friends in the congregation also greeted her, visited and spent time with her often. Even in her final week, many friends and family made a steady stream of visits to her bedside. They were never in a hurry to leave. Because of a stroke and fall, hitting her head, she quickly lost her ability to speak and later to respond at all. Even so, she was almost never alone. The last expression she was able muster was a crooked smile and she held it as long as she could. Even without asking the final question, “Was it all worth it?” That smile screamed the answer, “Yes, I would do it all again.”
In comfort, we consider, Sue was spared the agony of seeing her mind slip away to the point her mother and aunts experienced (which she could have been drawn closer to by living through another dark, cold winter). She was in relatively good physical health and her last two months seemed to be quite happy.
Sue Elizabeth Zane is peacefully resting in Jehovah’s memory till Jesus’ words at John 11:25 NW are applied to her, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.’” Sue completed her first 51 years of dedication to her Heavenly Father, and those who love her are determined to do all we can to join her in expressing love and beauty toward her God Jehovah for eternity for “the righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever” (Psalm 37:29 KJ).
If a lesson or epitaph were to be deduced by her life, her motive, her driving force, it would have to be: Beauty is Love which in turn is Beautiful.
Good-Night Mommy, This Was the Best Day Ever
Good-night Mommy, this was the best day ever;
We made messes and memories and crafts so clever;
With no voice to sing or rhythm to play;
You made such beauty from flowers and clay;
So glad we spent this time together;
Good-night Mommy, this was the best day ever.
You brought the joy of God into our home;
That saved our family from tragedies unknown;
Thank you for the wisdom you taught;
About the Kingdom and the hope you sought;
You even taught me how to live forever;
Good-night Mommy, this was the best day ever.
In the morning, I’ll see you wake;
I’ll bring you breakfast and then you’ll take;
Me to the mountains and to the sea;
Around the world and then we’ll be;
Able to accomplish any endeavor;
Good-night Mommy, then that will be the best day ever.