On December 21, 2013, (Nora) Suzanne Thomas Rodgers, 85, went home to be with her heavenly father. She was preceded in death by her son, Thomas S. Rodgers, her parents, and siblings.
Suzanne, born January 7, 1928, in Harrisburg, PA, to Charles Gardner and Susan Esther Stephens Thomas, the youngest of four – Betty, Adelaide, and Gardner. Raised in Harrisburg, she attended a segregated elementary school and William Penn High. She won Ms Harrisburg in 1946.
At 11, in 1939, Suzanne was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1. Treatment was even harder to manage then. Insulin dependent for over 74 years, she founded the Colorado Springs Juvenile Diabetes Chapter. She also survived cancer by 43 years, and founded the Springs ostomy association.
In 1948, she visited sister, Betty, and brother-in-law, Charles Moore at Lockbourne Airbase (a segregated military installation) in Ohio. Charles introduced Suzanne to Marion Raymond Rodgers – a Tuskegee Airman. She dated him, the next year, only returning home to help with the Thomas family dry cleaning business.
In 1949, “Rodge” followed her to Harrisburg and proposed. She said yes! A very large wedding was held at Capital Street Presbyterian Church on April 2, 1949. Several Airmen, including Rip Harder, bestman, arrived by way of a “borrowed” plane. To this union two children were born: Denise A. – September 23, 1952 and Thomas S. – May 11, 1954. She hosted many parties.
Civil Rights was a passion. In 1953, when in their 20’s, she spent an hour talking with Martin Luther King, Jr., where the Rodgers were renting his soon-to-be first church parish, now a museum. Suzanne served in leadership for the NAACP, six years; Urban League, 10 years; Civil Rights Commission; War on Poverty; and at the beginning of Head Start.
Suzanne was famous for her tulips and irises. She founded the Elmohr Iris Society and won numerous ribbon awards at county and state fairs. She has a biography in the “Pioneers’ Museum.
Suzanne was also an avid crafter, making earrings, specialty Easter Eggs and many other crafts, throughout the years. She traveled to nearly all 50 states, marking them off on a map, and twice to Europe.
Mrs. Rodgers, known as “the Friendly Witch of Hollyhock Drive”, gave away quarters and printed pencils, visited by multi-generational families, and featured in the local newspaper.
The Rodgers have been associated with the First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs for 40 years. Suzanne taught Bible Study classes and Girl Scouts. Even after becoming legally blind at age 70, Suzanne saw things most of us miss. Favorite Book: “He Saw a Hummingbird”.
Suzanne leaves, to cherish her memory, a loving and devoted husband of 64 years, Marion R. Rodgers (LtC USAF Retired) of Colorado Springs; daughter, Denise Vosburgh of Manhattan, NY; grandson, Ethan Nathaniel Vosburgh of Copenhagen, Denmark; nieces, Gayle Clark of Baltimore, MD, Sandra Clardy and Cheryl Webber of Phoenix, AZ, and a large number of 1st and 2nd cousins in AZ, RI and throughout the U.S.; and the 6023rd (Air Force wives club).
A public visitation Sunday, 12/29, noon—3, and on another date, a private funeral gathering (by invitation) have been planned. Please call 401-339-2069 (DRV) for more information. Entombment will be at the Shrine of Remembrance, Garden of Angels Mausoleum where her son Thomas S. Rodgers was laid to rest in 1993.
Memorial contributions may be offered: NAACP “Suzanne T. Rodgers Diamond Award Fund.” (719) 475-7255