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Obituary: Suzanne Lavenas '65


Suzanne Lavenás, an editor and year-round Montauk, NY, resident, died in a car accident on July 4, 2012.  She was 69.

Ms Lavenás was known for her generosity and sense of humor.  "She was funny and very loyal.  She had so many friends from different walks of life," said Simone Monahan.

"Suzy was big-hearted and was always there to listen...she would do anything for anybody," said long-time friend Debbie Tuma.

"The thing about Suzy is that she helped out a lot of people," said her sister, Tilly Lavenás. "She was a soft touch.  She even bought a house and let someone live there for years rent-free. She was always lending her car out, and friends would stay with her for months on end.  We joked that half of Montauk had a key to her apartment."

Daphne Prior knew Ms Lavenás for more than 40 years. "With her go so many shared memories of a special time, a special place.  Of the time we demonstrated against the Vietnam War at the Pentagon and of the Columbia student demonstrations just blocks from where we used to live."

Ms Lavenás was also a friend to cats.  Gerry O'Brien recalls one chaotic scene a few years ago when she walked into Ms Lavenás's apartment in Montauk Manor.  "Suzy and the vet were trying to catch Suzy's cats to trim their nails.  There was overturned furniture, upside down tables, cats flying through the air. But this didn't bother Suzy as her cats were her priority."

Ms Lavenás was a fervent member of Alcoholics Anonymous, which she joined in 2005. "It quite simply saved her life," Tilly Lavenás said.  "She met the most amazing people there. It's as if they all banded together to help her overcome her addiction."

Ms Lavenás was born in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1942, the daughter of Carlos Fernando Lavenás and the former Mary Sharp.  Her father was an Argentine businessman and the family shuttled back and forth between North and South America for two decades.

When she was 12, her mother became concerned about her children's welfare shortly before Argentine President Juan Perón was overthrown in a coup d'état.  She persuaded her husband to move the family to the U.S., where they lived in Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Jersey. Ms Lavenás graduated from Casady School in Oklahoma City in 1959 and studied history at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. When her father was transferred to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1965, Ms Lavenás went too and taught at the American School. She spoke fluent Spanish and Portuguese.

Ms Lavenás moved to New York in 1966 and for 20 years she worked for Travel Weekly as its production editor. Her job took her to many countries in Europe, Asia and Australia.

In 1982 Ms Lavenás married Wesley First, a retired newspaper editor. They moved to Montauk six years later, and she continued to edit on a freelance basis.  Mr. First died in 2000.

She formed a business partnership with Montauk resident Carolyn Carson, and the two worked together on many editorial projects.  In 2010 Ms Lavenás was an area supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau.

"She was really a modern woman," Ms Prior said, "ahead of her time, highly intelligent, astute and well-read; she was an outstanding editor and ran her own business.  There will never be anyone like her, with her eager smile, her warmth, her willingness to reach out and save someone, or some animal in need, her commitment to those she loved."

She is survived by her sister, Tilly Lavenás of Lyme Regis, England.

A memorial service is being held on Friday at 10:30 am at the Montauk Community Church.  The family has suggested donations to the Montauk Public Library or ARF, 90 Daniels Hole Road, Wainscott 11975.