Susan Heckendorn

November 11, 1955 - July 19, 2015
Traverse City, MI



At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.

Susan Contribution Wish List:

A.C. Paws, Bay Area Recycling, Planned Parenthood, Goodwill's Safe Harbor & Street Outreach. More than monetary contributions, Susan hopes that you simply make a pledge to volunteer some of your time to strangers in need.

Life Story / Obituary


Susan Clara Heckendorn lost her battle with cancer on Sunday, July 19, 2015 at age 59.

She was born in Trenton to Mary and Harold Heckendorn, both who preceded her in death. She graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in education. She also did an internship at the Michigan House of Representatives. She later attended Wayne State University working towards her master’s degree in criminal justice. She was known as a very dedicated and hard worker. She began working at age 15, often working two or three jobs to pay her way through college and throughout her lifetime.

In 1981, she moved to Traverse City where she began her 30 year career as a disability examiner for the Disability Determination Service for Social Security claims. She later became a hearings officer, after attending McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento for certification.

In 1991, Susan’s mother’s health began to fail. Susan then moved Mary to Traverse City to live with her where she continued to care for her until she died in 2006 because of Alzheimer’s disease. After her mother’s death, Susan began working part-time (along with her full-time job) for the National Park Service for six years at Sleeping Bear Dunes as a park ranger. She loved this job and considered it an honor and a privilege to work for the NPS. Susan loved being outdoors and enjoyed hiking, swimming, golfing, fly fishing and camping.

Her other passions were traveling, a thirst for knowledge, speaking out about injustice, and caring for animals and the less fortunate. She often traveled to foreign countries alone to study the Spanish language and learn about other cultures. Susan gave much of her time and money volunteering and contributing to causes she believed in, such as going on service trips with the National Sierra Club and local charities.

Susan also spent much of her life as an activist fighting against racism, bigotry, inequality in pay, education and health care; and those who would exploit the environment for profit for a few.

Most of all she fought against the hypocrisy of the majority of republicans, conservatives, religious organizations and their followers whose values and policies she saw as anything but moral and righteous and only incited hatred and social injustice against the most vulnerable. She saw these groups (and those who supported them) as morally corrupt, unethical and driven only by money for those at the top.

She fought for equal rights for all, especially the working poor, the homeless, immigrants, the disabled, and minorities. She fervently believed in personal sacrifice for the greater good including reducing personal consumption, not using more than ones fair share of resources, and zero population growth. Her motto was, “If you’re not engaged every single day in making this world a better place, and are capable, you are just taking up space.”

Susan rescued several animals during her lifetime up until her death, she cared for two feral cats, that she built elaborate outdoor shelters for, and two indoor strays; Harold and Casper. Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, she twice traveled to New Orleans to volunteer with Best Friends Animal Society to help rescue and care for the animals left behind as she could no longer bear the disastrous failure of the Bush administration to help both people and the animals. Her lifetime hope was that all breeders would be put out of business so there would be no need for shelters, and that all animals in a household were adopted, not purchased for profiteers.

After a forced early retirement enacted by the Governor Snyder’s “Pension Reform Act” and “Right to Work Policies” in 2011, she began working seven days a week at several part-time jobs that included the Traverse City Visitor Center, Cherry Republic, Vacation Rentals and substitute teaching. She later worked for Goodwill Industries and Legal Aid as a disability specialist helping the disabled with their Social Security disability appeals.

Most recently, she began a second career as a work incentives counselor for the disabled under a Social Security project. She also volunteered for Meals on Wheels, the National Park Service, Safe Harbor, Interlochen Center for the Arts, the State Theater, and the Red Cross Disaster Assistance Team.

Susan leaves behind many wonderful friends and neighbors all of whom she felt were her family. She will especially miss her golf team and her many years of friendship with her beloved “Dinner Belles.” She was extremely grateful that so many helped her in her time of need.

Susan loved organizing an annual summer picnic and bonfire at the National Lakeshore during the August meteor shower. Therefore, in lieu of a memorial service, she has planned a “Celebration of Life” event in the same spot and time for her close friends. Susan has also chosen to donate her body to science at Michigan State University with cremation at a later date.

Susan’s charitable contributions wish list includes A.C. Paws, Bay Area Recycling, Planned Parenthood, Goodwill’s Safe Harbor & Street Outreach. But more than monetary contributions, she hopes that you simply make a pledge to volunteer some of your time to strangers in need, contact your representatives frequently, and always question attempts by those on the right who’s only goal is to manipulate the minds of the uniformed. Most of all, she hopes that you will compel yourself to speak out when you see injustice. Otherwise she believed you are just as complicit in the crimes and guilty of the sin of omission. She truly believed that one person can make a difference. Please visit to sign the guestbook, share a message and more.

Susan chose Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City.