Obituary: Susan Marie Van Zandt

1950 – Oct. 3, 2023

Susan Marie Van Zandt (née Birdsong) passed away peacefully in Como, Italy on Oct. 3, 2023, at the age of 73.

Sue was the oldest child of Richard and Eleanor Birdsong of LaGrange, Illinois. Sue lived her childhood in LaGrange, along with her sister and brother, and attended Lyons Township Highschool where she met her husband, J. Michael Van Zandt, on a weekend church retreat. Sue attended Northern Illinois University before graduating from Fairview School of Nursing in Cleveland, Ohio.

Sue and Mike were married in LaGrange in Dec. 1970. They began their married life in Geilenkirchen, Germany where Mike was enlisted in the US Army during the Vietnam War. After returning to the United States and a brief stint in Cleveland, Sue and Mike settled in Clarendon Hills, Illinois where they have lived for 47 years. In the years before her marriage, Sue worked decorating the Christmas Tree at Marshall Field’s department store on State Street in Chicago. She began her career in nursing in the neonatal intensive care unit at Loyola Medical Center, followed by 20 years at Hinsdale Hospital.

Sue gave birth to three children, Julie, Mark, and Craig. Following the birth of her children, Sue worked the overnight shift so that she could be an active participant in her children’s daily lives. She was a proud mother and nurse, as evidenced by the license plate on her Buick Electra station wagon, “RN Mom.” Sue was a two-time cancer survivor who would never let her personal challenges stand in the way of her innate ability to care for others. She was the embodiment of the Midwest, genuinely kind, quick to help those in need, and always willing to chat up a stranger. Sue is remembered for her warm personality and love of family and friends. She appreciated a receptive ear and could talk for hours about matters big or small, happy or sad – especially with her sister, Gail Edgerton, and dear friend, Vicky Detjen. She would never miss a birthday or anniversary amongst her extended family, always ready with a personalized card and heartfelt message.

Sue was happiest in the company of her extended family and friends. In addition to her family, Sue’s passions included art, nature, history, the Beatles, stargazing, and spending time in Door County, Wisconsin, where she and Mike have had a home for 35 years. She relished the opportunity to host family gatherings overlooking the beautiful waters of Green Bay, where days of activities would be capped off with nights of reminiscing under the stars. In recent years, she and Mike have enjoyed traveling the world in the company of their family and close friends, with recent trips to France, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Egypt, and Israel.

Sue will be dearly missed by many, especially her beloved grandchildren Megan, Maddie, Aidan, and Gemma. Megan and Maddie were fortunate that Grammie took care of them from the time they were babies until they graduated middle school. She was a regular volunteer in their preschool room and their driver to volleyball practice, she even perfected the art of the “ballet bun.” Megan and Maddie will especially miss their birthday lunches with Grammie and her regular attendance at their activities. Aidan and Gemma will miss Grammie’s visits to their home in Brooklyn, New York and care packages filled with back-to-school clothes and pajamas. When they weren’t together, Grammie would provide Aidan and Gemma excited updates on Fiona the Hippo, the national bald eagles, the phases of the moon, and the latest space launch. They will especially miss their visits to Grammie in Clarendon Hills and Door County.

Over her life, Sue was active in many organizations including Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, Wellness House, and the Door County Land Trust.

Sue is preceded in death by her parents, Richard and Eleanor Birdsong, and her uncle, William Wilson. She is survived by her beloved husband of 52 years, Mike Van Zandt; daughter Julie Williams, her husband Ryan Williams, and their two children, Megan and Maddie; son Mark Van Zandt, his wife Lindsay Van Zandt, and their two children, Aidan and Gemma; son Craig Van Zandt and his wife MaryLynne Van Zandt; sister Gail Edgerton, brother Richard Birdsong, and aunt June Wilson.

A memorial service will be held on Oct. 14, 2023 at 10 am at Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. In lieu of flowers, donations in Sue’s honor can be made to the Door County Land Trust: