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'Queen of Lake Hood' passes away

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Susan Watson -- remembered at Lake Hood Seaplane Base as “The Queen of Lake Hood” -- died Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011, at Anchorage Regional Hospital surrounded by her family and friends. She was 49 years old.

Born Sept. 10, 1962 in Columbus, Ohio, Susan worked for the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles for 18 years before moving to Alaska in 1999, where she worked as a leasing officer at Lake Hood Operations with her supervisor and dear friend Andy Hutzel. She proudly served the pilots at Lake Hood Seaplane Base with the utmost efficiency and affection.

Susan was involved in many functions connected to Lake Hood, Anchorage International Airport, as well as being active in a variety of social causes. She was an avid trivia hound and particularly fond of all the folks at Humpy’s Alaska Alehouse in Anchorage. She was also involved for several years in coordinating flights for dogs and mushers in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Lake Hood Seaplane Base manager Andy Hutzel had these kind words for Susan:

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Approximately thirteen years ago Susan had already worked for the State of Ohio, Department of Motor Vehicles for (many) years. Susan decided she’d had enough working for Ohio DMV and liquidated everything. Susan had never been to Alaska, however that was her destination…looking for a new life, with adventure. It was the State of Alaska’s, and my, good fortune that Susan wanted to work at the Lake Hood Seaplane Base.

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I often told Susan she was wasting her talents at Lake Hood, she was capable of doing any job she wanted. Extremely organized and always doing for others, especially the 1,000 Lake Hood pilots. She loved them and they in turn loved her. Susan could remember any number she ever looked at.  Some of her former employees from the Ohio DMV would phone and ask her what their home addresses where, just to test her memory. Without hesitation Susan would rattle off their addresses like she was still in Ohio. Alaskan pilots would see Susan at Costco and for fun ask, “What’s my aircraft registration and aircraft tie down space number?” Susan would answer both correctly and then proceed, with pride, to tell them their home address, home phone, work phone and cell phone numbers. Simply amazing.

Susan is survived by her mother Jolene I. Darby; father Dallas L. Darby; brothers Steven Michael Watson, Bill C. Anderson and Michael L. Darby; sisters-in-law Rose Watson and sister-in-law, Tasha Darby; nieces and nephews Heather Watson, Zackary Watson, Jakob Watson and Keith Kirkland in Kentucky; aunt Connie DeFee and family. Family in Minnesota includes Donna and Tom Turnbom, cousins Susan and Jared Thyen, and Mike Turnbom. In Columbus, Ohio, cousins Steven Clemons, his children, Nick and Mandy and cousins Jeanean and Bobby Fontenot of Palmer, Alaska.

Susan had so many dear friends it would be unfair to mention any without leaving out all of the rest. Those of you who were closest to Susan know that she would not want anyone to feel left out or unappreciated.

Celebration of life

A celebration of life for Susan Watson is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23 at the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum, 4721 Aircraft Dr., with Father Leo Walsh presiding.

It was Susan’s fervent wish that all join together in celebration of her life rather than being depressed over her passing. A special thanks to all of the folks working behind the scenes to help arrange Susan’s memorial. Thanks also to all the wonderful staff that cared for Susan at Alaska Regional Hospital, and her doctors at Alaska Oncology and Hematology.  And thank you to all of the many family, friends and loved ones involved in caring for Susan during her battle with colon cancer, and for the outpouring of sympathy and support to Susan’s mother, father, brothers and the rest of her family.

The Susan Watson Memorial Fund is being established for donations.