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Central Warriors | all galleries >> Biographies >> Susan Grafton > Susan Grafton
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Susan Grafton

Although I was born in New Orleans, my family moved to Memphis when I was about 3 years old. For almost all of the time from age 3 until high school graduation I lived on Roseland Place where my best friend, Mary Kuykendall, one year older, also lived.

We both attended Training School for nine years and Central High. Shortly after my high school graduation, my family moved to a suburb of St. Louis, I went off to Rice University, in Houston, and promptly lost touch with the world as I had known it. In college I discovered that math and science were not my strongest subjects and I majored in English. My best skill, however, has yet to be utilized... I was terrific at Jumble. It did help me meet my husband, John, who worked on the dish crew in the dorm where I was the dining room "hostess."

John was amazed that I could do a Jumble from start to finish in about a minute. I knew it was true love when he gave me a homerun baseball hit by Willie Stargell that he caught at the Astrodome in an Astros-Pirates game in 1966. John and I married in December of 1967. He was a graduate student in mathematics at Berkeley and I was getting a practical one-years masters degree in education so I could do something to earn a living.

That was back then, as you all know, when women taught, became nurses, or wives, or maybe did clerical work. I am still amazed that some women of our generation were so forward thinking as to go to medical or law school. It never even occurred to me then.

My father died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) 10 days after my wedding. We didn't really have a honeymoon, but I was staying with my new spouse in his downtown Oakland basement apartment. Who needs honeymoons?

My sister had already married and was living in St. Louis also, but soon moved to North Carolina. My younger brother and my mother stayed in St. Louis until Fred finished his masterís degree in engineering management at Rolla School of Mines in Rolla, Missouri. He married Barbara and they moved to Peoria where he joined Caterpillar. He is still with Barbara and Caterpillar!

My mom moved to Charlotte and spent the last years of her life there. She died in a fire in 1979 - caused by her cigarette. We think she fell asleep or had a stroke.

John and I lived in Berkeley/Oakland for two years, and then when he finished his PhD moved to the Denver area where he had a one-year teaching job in the math department. I found work oddly enough teaching 5th grade math all day for six months in the Jefferson County schools - which at the time were considered very progressive. All I know is that open-space schools were not my cup of tea.

John's next job was in Austin, where we hoped to stay at least three years (the length of his appointment). But he stayed on, got tenure at University of Texas, and then quit to try something else. At the time we had no children and enjoyed lots of long hiking vacations in California. Colorado, Grand Canyon, etc. After 15 years of marriage, we decided the marriage might last and I got pregnant.

Our first daughter Helen is now a rising senior at University of California-Berkeley where she is majoring in biological sciences and hope to become a sports trainer. Mary starts her senior year in high school in August and hopes to go to Columbia College in New York City the following fall.

Meanwhile before kids, I went from six years of teaching to get an MBA at U-Texas in Austin. After that I worked for 16 years at IBM as a technical marketing support person, or what IBM called a systems engineer. I enjoyed the work, but when they offered early retirement in 1992, I was ready to quit. Then I puttered around for a couple of years doing freelance work and trying my luck at being a stay-at-home mom. John was running his own business then, and it was tough getting started, so I went back to work full time as an editor for Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. I was on the team that produced secondary school grammar and literature books.

We also developed an interactive computerized grammar course. I don't know what happened to it, but it was fun to work on. Eventually, however, because the job security was nil, I began to think of trying something new. Secretly I studied for the LSAT, and applied to UTexas Law School, here in Austin. When I was admitted I was 52 years old. I think one person in the class was close to my age, but as you can imagine most were much younger. Nonetheless, I loved it.

My law school graduation and Helen's high school graduation were days apart. Finding a job as a newly minted 55 year old mother with a law degree was not exactly a piece of cake. But I did land one - with one of the many hotshot computer start-ups - for one month I was vice president of legal and marketing (emphasis on marketing) making $400 month. Most of the employees did not get paid at all, so I felt lucky. Of course, I was still looking and finally landed (thank goodness) in my current spot as an attorney with the Texas Legislative Council, the legal advice and drafting arm of the Texas legislature. It's a wonderful job in many respects and I very much enjoy it.

I don't always agree with the laws I draft, however! Will I find fame and fortune? Not likely.

Am I happy? Yes! John's business has thrived in spite of the economic downturns - his specialty is computer mapping software that takes advantage of the Internet. Mary and Helen are growing into responsible young adults. I have a roof that leaks, but will probably get fixed soon.

I am delighted to read about my former classmates at Central - and proud of all the successful careers people have had. It's fun to read about each and every one of you.

I'm sorry I could not attend the reunion - we don't know if the governor is going to call a special session - rather, we don't know when he is going to call a special session. If I can find a family photo I'll send it in. Meanwhile, I hope you all have fun remembering our years back when.

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