In Memory of Susie Angel

1970 - 2022

A woman with black glasses, leaning into a headrest smiles at the camera.On Aug. 20, with great pain, the CTD family said goodbye to our colleague and friend, Gloria Susan Angel, or, as everyone knew her, Susie.

It's difficult to summarize Susie's impact on CTD and the Austin disability advocacy community (to say nothing of the many other communities she was a part of). I'm leaving out a lot here, and I hope that the details and stories that are absent below will still circulate often among her friends and acquaintances, family, colleagues, and all of those whose lives she touched.

Laura and Susie posing for a portrait on the front porch of CTD. Laura wears black glasses and a mustard colored scarf. Susie also wears black glasses and has on a grey cable knit sweater. Her power chair armrest is visible, holding her hot pink phone. They're both smiling, Susie looks like she might be up to something.Susie came to CTD by way of the Americorps VISTA program in 2010. She joined our staff permanently the following year, as a Researcher and Editing Specialist. She and I (right) often found ourselves working together, most notably, on Pen 2 Paper, a disability-focused creative writing contest that CTD had launched early in 2010. She would recount that when CTD first offered her a position, she took it, on the condition that she was allowed to enter the contest. After Susie came on board, she joined me to manage Pen 2 Paper as a co-coordinator, and it really took off. In the following decade, we watched as dozens of entries submitted each year turned into hundreds. I credit Susie with that growth; it was at her urging that we open the contest from Texas to international writers. We made some misteps with the contest, but we always got each other through them, and along the way read some truly incredible work. What we did with Pen 2 Paper, though imperfect, remains some of the most meaningful work I've ever been a part of, and I'll be delighted and deeply humbled to the end of my days that I got to do it with her.

11 people, many with assistive devices and or visible disabilities, gather for a group photo.In all areas of her work at CTD, Susie took every assignment and task to heart, taking care to produce the best work possible. It's safe to say that she would have approached any position with the same dedication. But with us, she was often advocating for policy and cultural changes that would have affected her own life, as a person with a disability. Most recently, she helped to pass legislation that expands access to healthcare and protects voting rights for Texans with disabilities (right, Susie among participants testing accessible voting machines, one of the last activities in CTD's office before the pandemic).

Susie also took every opportunity to advocate for a raise in the wage of community attendants. She knew first hand how difficult it is to find help at a sub-poverty wage rate of $8.11 per hour. Her own attendant and close friend of many years, Sandy White, a quiet woman with an endless capacity for love and care, passed away unexpectedly earlier this summer. Susie's decline in health soon followed. It is not difficult to connect the dots here, adding another layer of despair, as well as frustration and anger to our grief.

But to speak about Susie only in terms of sadness and anger would be in error. She was a person who sought—and often found or created—joy, meaning, and community. In the office, with her congregation at the Austin New Church, in the mixed ability dance group Body Shift, at the Lion & Pirate open mic (which she helped to get off the ground and continued to support through this year), at any ballpark (particularly, Dell Diamond), or wherever she found herself, Susie was quick to make a friend and have a good time. Even in her final weeks, when she was uncomfortable and immensely frustrated with her care, she managed to crack a joke and a smile when any of her CTD family would visit her.

Susie hated it when people told her that God would heal her disabilities. She believed God made her exactly as she was, on purpose, because she was uniquely suited to the task of showing how people with disabilities were as capable and human as anyone else, of leading by example. In this, she excelled. I take some measure of comfort knowing that her work in this regard remains in effect, and will continue for many years, whenever her memory dances across our minds.

Laura Perna
CTD Communications Director
August 29, 2022

CTD staff remembers Susie

Denise Ellison, Chief Operations Officer

Gloria Susie Angel. Her parents named her well. I automatically see glory and angel and the two seem to sum up our Susie. I say “our” Susie, because she was different things to different people. For CTD she was the go to person for “The Written Word”. If you wrote something that needed to be shared with others outside of our CTD walls, you always wanted Susie’s keen eye to review it. Her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas did not go unused! She had a way to connect with all of us here, but there will always be a very special place in heart for Susie.

You see, I am not real sure that I would have been invited to join the CTD if not for Susie. Getting to join the CTD team is not an easy task. At least for me, it meant three interviews. I remember the first being with Dennis Borel. The second was with Dennis Borel and Chase Bearden. Whew! I made it! Nope… you need to interview with Susie Angel. I came back and while Dennis was in the room, Susie interviewed me.

You can always prepare for work interviews. Know your P’s and Q’s, throw in your personal facts, and be informative. I was not prepared for my Susie interview. The fact is, you can’t study for these types of interviews. Susie was soft and kind and then boom!!! The hard questions:

The kind of questions you don’t really put into your interview folder. I have to admit she put me on the spot and she wanted to hear my answers regarding how I would act, react and /or treat people with disabilities. My heart dropped because I did not understand her words at first. Her speech and speech pattern were a little muffled to my ears. I apologized to her and I said “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand you. Would you please repeat yourself?” That’s all she needed to hear from me. The questions were answered by my one question back to her.

She smiled at me as if to say “Thank you” for responding honestly and for not merely nodding your head as if you understood me. I believe it was that moment that Susie and I found great trust and respect for one another. She just treated me as Denise and I treated her just as Susie.

When I went to visit her in the hospital when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she told that she asked God “Why? I thought that by having Cerebral Palsy, I was good to go. No more bad will come, but then, I get this news.“ You went on to go through so much more Susie. I don’t know why “God” put so much on you. I can only say that I don’t know too many people, including myself, that could have handled all the things you were given. He must have known that you could handle it, and you could teach all of us what it really means to be strong, determined, trustworthy, and love worthy.

Our sweet Susie… Your name will live forever in the hearts of everyone you touched.

We love and miss you.

Jolene Sanders-Foster, Advocacy Director

Way before I joined CTD almost 3 years ago, I felt Susie's power in the advocacy world just by being able to share space with her in the same circles. She was this influential celebrity that I always felt privileged to be around in meetings or hearing rooms, even from a distance. It meant I was somewhere really important. She was kind, thoughtful, brilliant, talented, and very much the heart of CTD. She changed so many things for the better and certainly left her creative mark on the world. Our CTD family and anyone who ever knew Susie is feeling a tremendous loss.

Sydney Paschall, former Policy Intern

It is heartbreaking to hear of Susie’s passing. What a bright light and ray of sunshine she was in this world. That will carry on forever.

Jennifer Bracy, former Development Specialist

Black and white of a woman and a man, both in a power chair, both with an arm outstreched toward the camera. She faces away while he looks in her direction and smiles.I had the pleasure of working with Susie for the first few years I lived in Austin. She was such a kind soul. Always happy, smiling and full of zest for life, disability advocacy and dancing. I’m glad I was able to have her in the documentary SEW ADAPTIVE in 2019 (right, Susie and Juan dancing. Photo by Armando Martinez.). Making that documentary was a really special time in my life, and I’ll never forget it.

Susie was always supportive of my goals as a filmmaker and advocate. We shared some common ground with both of us having Cerebral Palsy. She was in fact, the first older-than-me, adult, I’d ever known to have it. It was awesome to chat with her and Juan often in the office and work alongside her. I will miss her greatly. May she Rest In Eternal Peace.

And, may we all keep dancing for Susie!

Dennis Borel, Executive Director

I met Susie in 2010 when she arrived for her job interview at CTD. While employees with disabilities are common at CTD, I had doubts. Susie had a UT degree, but little work experience, and we had not crossed paths in disability advocacy or events--or so I thought. In listening to her thoughtful answers, it became apparent her lack of work history was related to lack of opportunity, not ability. In response to a casual question of what she likes to do in her spare time, Susie said public dance, something not on her resume, and I realized we had crossed paths when I attended a mixed ability dance performance. I then knew we could make this work, and Susie began a 12-year career at CTD. And she delivered.

In profile, Susie leans forward in her power chair to speak into a microphone in a large, stately room.We have a rule at CTD: no matter your specific job, anyone can be called upon to participate in advocacy. Susie embraced those calls. Her grasp of disability policy was excellent, and she knew how to effectively communicate. On voting rights, Suse was profiled on the front page of the New York Times. On the community attendant workforce issues, she was featured by the Texas Tribune in both a video chronicling her days and in a special print series. As my partner in advocating for a dental benefit, it was Susie's testimony that literally caused legislators' jaws to drop (right, testifying on the floor of the Senate in 2017).

In a telling and amusing note, last year a senator told me he had new respect for me since I became Susie's assistant. In all these areas and more, Susie made a difference.

There was much more at and outside of CTD. Susie lived a life of power and impact. I am privileged to share that ride.