While the passing of a close family member or friend immediately conjures the memory of that person, the memories of those we were weren’t close with don’t often last much longer than an expression sadness for their families and a hope that they navigate the grieving process as best as possible.
Suzanne “Suzie” Wickham, wife of Mill Valley City Councilman Jim Wickham and mother of five children, was an anomaly to that norm. Wickham passed away on March 7 after a long, quiet, valiant fight against her illness, participating in a cutting-edge cancer study at U.C.S.F., and choosing to believe in the strides, rather than the odds.
In her years of teaching at Happy Feet Dance School and working the front desk at Mount Tam School and Edna Maguire Elementary School, Wickham interacted with dozens of parents, teachers, students and visitors throughout the day. In most cases, these were passing interactions, but Wickham always seemed to make them feel like much more than that. Upon every one of my Edna visits to volunteer in my daughter’s library class, she’d share a vignette of seeing my daughter on campus, a recent interaction or she’d just say, “I love that girl.”
I always seemed to show up a minute or two late to library because of those brief but fun encounters. And plenty of her interactions with other parents and visitors went the same way.
So while Wickham’s family grieves her passing earlier this month, she’s an outlier, as the memories are not remotely limited to friends and family. Hundreds of people all over Mill Valley are also recalling those brief, fleeting interactions that went way beyond answering a question or calling a student to the front office to be picked up.
“I celebrate you Suzie,” says Annie Thistle, the founder of the Performing Arts Academy of Marin. “PAAM’s evolution, in the early days especially, was shaped by your support. I will cherish each time your granddaughter gets onstage to dance at PAAM, because I’ll think of you and know the privilege of witnessing people you love do what they love. I will always remember the special moments with (Wickham’s daughter) Lauren teaching her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as my first Dorothy in our first MainStage, and watching you beam with pride. You are “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” watching – and you are missed but never gone.
The daughter of Louise and Jack Allen, Suzie Wickham grew up on Ryan Avenue, attending Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Mill Valley Middle School, and Tamalpais High School, from which she graduated in 1979. It was love at first sight when she met Jim Wickham, her husband of 38 years, and little did she suspect then that he would become the mayor of Mill Valley in 2019, or that they would raise five children in the sheltering beauty of Mount Tamalpais.
Where there were children, Suzie would be. Whether it was teaching dance to a generation of children at the Happy Feet Dance School, supporting young students at the Mount Tam School – or, later, at Edna McGuire – running the Snack Shack at Boyle Park, or grilling burgers at the annual carnival, Suzie was always a caring, playful, and radiant presence. She had a gift for creating a welcoming home and for making people feel at home, as her family and many friends will attest. Suzie never sought the limelight, yet she cast a special light of her own.
Wickham gave so much to everyone who crossed her path, and now she leaves this legacy: cherish family, celebrate friendships, and choose love and courage over fear. Suzie will be deeply missed by her husband, Jim; her five children, Sarah (Bevan Jones), Ashley (Jay Harry), Ryan (Kenya Curry), Scott (Ceren Turgut), and Lauren (available); her grandchildren, Sienna and Kaiden Jones, Kali Wickham and Sierra Harry; her sister, Doree Allen; her brother, John (Leslie) Allen; her Godmother, Mary Capurro; her nieces and nephews, Madison, Isabelle, Cory, Rhonda, Brian (Becky) and Paul; and her other dear family members, Stephanie Wickham-Witt, George Wickham, Anne Baxter, and Edith Lindstrom.
A celebration of Suzanne’s life will take place sometime in the summer when we can gather together again. Memorial gifts may be made to: UCSF Foundation, PO Box 45339, San Francisco, CA 94145; or online here. Please indicate the gift is in memory of Suzanne Wickham, to benefit breast cancer research under the direction of Dr. Michelle Melisko.
To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
A Meal Train has been set up to help the Wickham family through this difficult time. Email us if you’re interested in participating.