Susan C. Harkins, 64: Passionate teacher, activist

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YARMOUTH — Susan Clare Harkins, 64, died Dec. 23 at Brentwood Nursing Home from complications of a stroke she sustained in 1995.
A brilliant mother, passionate teacher, political activist, loving sister and friend, she touched the lives of many people.

On June 16, 1945, she was born in Washington, D.C., a daughter of Fredrick Gluck and Pearl Linden. 

In 1967 she married her high school sweetheart, William “Bill” Harkins. 
The following year she began her teaching career in a two-room schoolhouse in Topsfield, where she taught grades 1 through 4 and became involved in Re-evaluation Counseling.

In 1970 they moved to Lewis, N.Y. to teach at the Lewis-Wadhams School. During this time, their two sons, Perrin and Ben, were born. She was a devoted mother who also found time to parent many children at the school.

While she was Jewish and Bill was Protestant, she was determined that her sons should participate in the faith and practices of both cultures, according to their choices.  She was proud that each had a Bar Mitzvah.

In 1976 they moved back to Maine and she taught English at Falmouth High School, where she pioneered a course in Holocaust Studies. She was widely recognized for excellence in teaching, and a graduating class at Falmouth High School dedicated a page in its yearbook recognizing her influence.

In 1988 she suffered a stroke.  Despite the lasting physical difficulties, she learned to function independently. The following year, she earned a Master’s Degree in education from Harvard University, and resumed her teaching career. 

She and Bill were founding members of the Brunswick Stroke Support Group.  Fearless about her disability, she learned to downhill ski and participated in Maine Handicapped Skiing. She was also an activist for rights for people with disabilities.

Shortly before she was to attend a world women’s conference in Beijing in 1995, she had a second stroke.

For the last 15 years she has resided at Brentwood Nursing Home in Yarmouth.  Despite her inability to communicate, she had many visitors. Bill visited her most every night until his recent death on Nov. 19. Reading, singing and talking with Susan was one of the great pleasures of his life. 

Surviving are her two sons, Perrin Harkins of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ben Harkins of San Francisco; her father, Fredrick Gluck of Oldsmar, Fla.; and two sisters, Ann Gluck of Philadelphia and Joan Handel of Boston.

A memorial service will be held at a date yet to be determined. 

Memorial donations may be sent to the Re-evaluation Foundation, P.O. Box 9292, Queen Anne Station, Seattle WA 98109; or to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, Michael Klahr Center, University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Dr., Augusta, ME 04330-1644; or to Maine Handicapped Skiing, 8 Sundance Lane, Newry, ME 04261.

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