A mover, a shaker and a forward thinker, Susanne Wright Mayberry was also known for her kind heart and steady hand.
Mayberry, 73, passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 30, after a six-year battle with breast cancer. She left the world, according to her good friend Valerie Jones, “with the same anticipation she came into it with.”
Jones said that Mayberry loved music, and was an avid reader and a fantastic card player who loved to swim. She was an early advocate for the Moab Recreation & Aquatic Center, and she wanted Grand County to be as vibrant as it could be.
“She was an important presence in many people’s lives in Moab and beyond, and she will be sorely missed,” Jones said.
Mayberry’s love and dedication to the citizens of Moab were manifest through her 30-year career in social services – both in the juvenille court system and the Utah Department of Workforce Services; her work as a Grand County Council member; and through more than two decades of volunteer service with local community radio station KZMU.
Longtime resident Joe Kingsley also remembers her as one who helped guide Moab toward a tourism-based economy when Atlas Minerals shut down operations in 1984.
“Hundreds of families were leaving Moab when Atlas closed,” Kingsley said. “There was immense concern over how we were going to save our community.”
Kingsley said that town meetings were held, and that Mayberry’s vision and calm presence kept people open to possibilities, and helped guide the community on a path to economic recovery.
“She saw that Moab was a great place to visit,” Kingsley said. “Her political expertise and leadership helped make Moab a tourist destination.”
In 1999, Mayberry joined the Grand County Council, where she served one term, choosing not to run again due to the strain it put on her marriage and personal life.
“Susanne loved politics, especially if there was an argument to be made,” Jones said.
Moab resident and former Grand County Council member Joette Langianese recalled working with Mayberry on the council.
“I would watch her address issues with amazement,” Langianese said. “She was a real mentor; I wanted to do things that way.”
Langianese said she admired Mayberry’s balanced approach, as well as her confidence. She said that Mayberry took her under her wing and taught her who was who in the community. The two became close friends and bonded over the deaths of their own mothers.
Langianese said that Mayberry was politically progressive, but that she had the respect of many old-timers because she was from here.
“It was different back then,” she said. “We disagreed on the council but we still had fun. It wasn’t as hostile as it is today.”
Born in Moab on May 24, 1943, Mayberry was a uranium miner’s daughter. She was the third child born to Dick Wright and Marilee “Toots” McDougald. Her two older brothers died before she was born, and she was raised as an only child.
Her father was killed in a mining accident in Naturita, Colorado, when she was 7 years old, and her mother brought her back to Moab.
Toots opened a trading post that dealt in Native American rugs and jewelry, and her daughter spent a lot of time at the store talking with people and learning about Native American culture.
Mayberry excelled in school and graduated at 16, having been forwarded through a couple of grades, and then quickly married the love of her life, Weldon Mayberry. The couple had two children, Wendy and Greg (Brandy); four grandchildren, DJ, Morgan, Ashley and Courtney; and six great-grandchildren.
One of Mayberry’s first jobs was working for local radio station KURA. Her daughter Wendy said that she loved radio and would have loved to make that her career.
“She loved music, all kinds of music,” Wendy Mayberry said. “It amazed me some of the music she liked, even stuff my kids listen to.”
Wendy Mayberry described her mother as “very lenient,” and said that she instilled in her a strong sense of independence, urging her to be her own person.
“I don’t know how she ever survived me!” she said. “I was very defiant.”
She said her mother could set people off with her liberal opinions, but that in the end “she had a way of breaking through” and discussing things with people who had different views.
“She was a giver,” she said. “She wanted to help everyone.”
In the 1970s, the Mayberrys bought Pack Creek Ranch, where they grew alfalfa and rented out two houses on the property.
“It was a lot of fun and a lot of work,” Wendy Mayberry said.
The family sold the ranch in the 1980s, but Weldon stayed on to help run the place.
It was during that period that Karl Rapp’s Main Street Broiler provided a social hub for many, and Mayberry found an outlet that combined her passion for radio and community through KZMU.
KZMU Program Director Christy Williams Dunton said that during the planning stages for the radio station, Mayberry was part of the “dreaming and doing committee” that included Rapp, Doni Kiffmeyer and Bill Benge, among others.
Williams Dunton said that it was Mayberry’s commitment and steady hand that ensured the station’s success.
“Without Susanne, there would be no KZMU,” Williams Dunton said. “It’s that simple.”
Williams Dunton said that Mayberry was a pillar of the radio station, doing work behind the scenes, and in front as a DJ, where she brought a recognizable flavor of classic rock and blues to the airwaves.
“She loved Van Morrison,” Williams Dunton said. “We always knew it was her in the booth when we heard Van on the radio.”
Williams Dunton said that in the end, it was Mayberry’s strength of spirit that will always stick with her, and that even when she was very sick she would still come in and do her radio show.
“We owe her a great deal,” she said.
Moab resident, city council member and lifelong friend Kyle Bailey said that Mayberry was “an extremely intelligent and talented lady.”
“There were many enjoyable times and she will be thoroughly missed,” Bailey said. “She was like a sister to me.”
Bailey described Mayberry as a progressive thinker who was very involved in politics and volunteer work, and that her greatest concern was for the welfare of the people.
“She liked new ideas and the stimulus of new people,” Bailey said.
Bailey’s wife Carrie said that Mayberry was a technology person who was very interested in updating the county’s database and computer systems.
“She was very forward-thinking, very tech-savvy, especially for someone her age,” Carrie Bailey said.
Carrie Bailey said that she had never met a more ethical or compassionate social services worker, and that through her years with the juvenile court system, Mayberry never had an unkind word for anyone.
“She was a really good person who helped a lot of people,” she said.
Wendy said that her mother left the world surrounded by family and friends through a going-away ceremony facilitated by a Native American elder and spiritual care volunteer.
She said her mother was a spiritual person who had also attended the Episcopal Church in search of an all-inclusive religion.
“She loved hard and she loved everyone so much,” she said. “She was the best example I could have ever had.”
In accordance with her wishes, Susanne Mayberry was cremated, and a memorial service was held on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Spanish Valley Mortuary. Her family suggests making donations to the Huntsman Cancer Center in her name.
Former county council member dedicated her life to community service
She loved hard and she loved everyone so much … She was the best example I could have ever had.