Susan Rose Hollander Parker, a much-loved member of the Chilmark community and former Chair of the Up-Island and Regional High School Committees, died in her home on June 9. She was 64 and had metastatic breast cancer.
A memorial service was held in Susan’s honor at the Chilmark Community Center on June 16. More than 300 family members and guests shared music, books she loved, and memories of her as a public servant, educator, volunteer, friend, sibling, spouse, mom and grandmother.
Susan lived life in a remarkably authentic way: her good nature, values, compassion, humility, delight in children, generosity and intellect were evident and consistent across every crucial role she filled. She was an advocate for strong families, reading and outdoor playtime over screen time, doing the right thing, environmental protection, charity, community service and diversity — and she led by example.
Susan was born on February 17, 1950, and was raised in Chevy Chase, Md. She attended Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, where her many interests and talents were first demonstrated, as an officer of the National Honor Society, a clarinet player in the marching band, a leader of the Keyettes service organization and a Pom Pom girl. Her parents, Joan and Bernard Hollander, instilled in her a love for music, public service, and Martha’s Vineyard. Joan was a performing pianist, and Bernard served as an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for almost 60 years, after commanding a sub-chaser in World War II. The family spent part of every summer on Martha’s Vineyard since the 1940s.
Susan attended Vassar College and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, she met Jeff Parker; they married before their senior year at age 20. Jeff was the son of two immigrants, the first in his family to attend college. Susan was drawn to his sense of humor. They shared similar life goals and fell deeply in love. Their path together took them to Pittsburgh for three wonderful years, Washington, D.C., for 22 years and Martha’s Vineyard for the last 18 years.
Susan’s career as an educator began when she was in college. A brilliant math and economics student, she first served as a student teacher in West Philadelphia at Leah Junior High School. After graduation, Susan taught in a suburban public school in Pittsburgh. She found the reliance on corporal punishment, racism and attitudes toward children to be abhorrent, leaving her with the lasting conviction that children have unique learning needs and that all deserve to be treated with loving-kindness. Later, in Washington, Susan tutored and served as a math resource teacher for a local elementary and middle school, while raising their children, Mike, Rebekah, and later, Alex.
Susan, Jeff, and Alex moved to Chilmark year-round when Alex was in third grade. Once ashore, Susan immersed herself in the life of the island. Alex attended the Chilmark, West Tisbury and Regional High Schools, and Susan became increasingly involved in local education. Her singular goal was doing what was best for the Island’s children. She served as a substitute teacher and was elected to be a member and eventually Chair of the Up-Island School Committee from Chilmark, as well as Chair of the Regional High School and All Island School Committees. As chair of the High School Committee, she handed Alex his diploma at graduation in the Tabernacle.
Susan worked tirelessly to keep the Chilmark School open and thriving. She supported the development of the Chilmark Preschool, now attended by two of her grandchildren. She also served as long-time treasurer for the Chilmark Outing Club and Friends of Vineyard Soccer and volunteered at the Island Food Pantry and League of Women’s Voters, among others.
For Susan, the Island was also a place for enjoying the outdoors, many friendships, and close family ties. She could often be found at soccer and basketball games, taking her sunfish out on Menemsha Pond, walking at Land Bank properties and Polly Hill, and spending summer afternoons at Squibnocket. Susan supported Mike during his time on Island as the founder of Just About Music in the late 90s and later encouraged Rebekah and her husband, Joshua Thomson, to relocate to the Island from Barcelona; they now live in West Tisbury with their two kids.
Susan is survived by her husband of 44 years, Jeff; her children, Michael and Daphne Parker of Philadelphia, Rebekah and Joshua Thomson of West Tisbury, and Alex Parker of New York City; her grandchildren, Dayan Bernard and Sadie Violet Parker, and Leah Hiroko and Moses Yutaka Thomson; her 98-year-old father, Bernard Hollander of Chevy Chase, Md.; her siblings, Jonathan Hollander of New York City, David Hollander and Laurie Hackett of Newton; Ellie Hollander and Jennifer Fairfax of Silver Spring, Md.; her nieces:, Isabelle Rose, Marguerite, and Brydon; her nephew Nicholas; as well as numerous other family members and many wonderful friends. Susan was predeceased by her mother, Joan Wolman Hollander, of Chevy Chase, Md.
In Susan’s memory, the family requests donations to the Island Food Pantry (P.O. Box 1874
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568), Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard (P.O. Box 1748 Vineyard Haven, MA 02568), and Island Grown Schools (P.O. Box 622, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568).