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Susan Faye Bell Willis

  • Birth 10 Apr 1969 Virginia, USA
  • Death 23 Nov 2007 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, USA
  • Burial Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend
  • Memorial ID 51303691

Mother Beatrice Hudgins
Father James Bell
Brother Steve Bell
Spouse Brian Gene Willis

A Dedication To Susan F. (Bell) Willis
(written by Susan's family members)

It's an old story that an unusually high percentage of people that display an intense zest for life end up leading shorter lives. Maybe that's because they sense that time is preciously short.

That was Susan Willis.

She was born in Richmond, Virginia on April 10, 1969, as Susan Bell. She was fearless from the start. Her playground was equal parts exploring the forest, the Chesapeake Bay, and any fashionable mall. People and animals instantly loved her. She had a happy and carefree childhood. Her maternal grandmother, with whom she was tightly bonded, reinforced her intrinsic independent streak.

She graduated from the University of Central Florida in 1991 with a BA in Anthropology and moved to Norman, Oklahoma, to further pursue her education. Her goal was nothing less than improving the human condition. Her method was to experience it.

In 1996 she obtained a Master of Arts – Anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. It was during this timeframe, when she was 27 years old, that she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Undaunted, she pursued both a career and a doctoral degree. She discovered during this period that she had fiercely loyal friends and family and the best medical treatment that a caring group of doctors could provide. She was in the constant prayers of many souls.

We all watched a person lead an inspirational life. Personally, she understood the importance of family and friends. Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays and vacations held true meaning. Gatherings of family and friends were celebrations and allowed her to fulfill her desire to experience all of life's opportunities. Professionally, Susan's appreciation of the gift of life was clearly reflected in her career choices and educational endeavors.

And she fought for her life. As a young cancer survivor with an aggressive tumor prognosis, she maintained an extremely positive approach to all aspects of her disease progression. Her focus, knowing that a cure was not her option, targeted her energy to stay ahead of her illness with medical technology and treatment advances until the cure evolved. She shared these options and advancements to improve the experience for other patients. This could be as simple as the color/style selection of wigs and makeup to the broad detail of the latest treatment options for brain metastasis. She also actively raised money for Cancer research by participating in the Lance Armstrong Foundation (in both bike rides and as a forum member on CNN).

Paula Burcher, her cousin, has been a healthcare provider for over 30 years. Susan brought to her attention on a weekly basis opportunities to improve the care provided to cancer patients. She also instilled the significant importance for patients with long term illness to live a normal daily life: one with dignity, control and respect.

In the closing months of her life she married her true love, Brian Willis. They met in June of 2004. Brian found her to be a wonderful woman: quick to laugh and a joy to be around. They enjoyed cycling together and attended many rides throughout Oklahoma and Texas. In August of 2006 she completed 100 miles in the Hotter-n-Hell ride in Wichita Falls, Texas. They also enjoyed traveling together. During their life together, they traveled all over Oklahoma and Texas, visited her mother in Virginia and her brother in Florida, went to Alaska, and honeymooned in Hawaii. Brian proposed to Susan during their Alaska vacation and they were married in May of 2007. Ultimately even her strength, will and resilience could not defeat her disease. She passed away in November of the same year.

Brian encapsulates our sentiments: "I do not regret the short time that we had together, but cherish it. My uncle, who was the pastor at both our wedding and her memorial service, told me how upset he was that God would allow her to be taken so soon after our marriage. I told him that maybe God, knowing that her time was short, allowed us to be married so that she would not be alone at the end".

Her life provided enduring inspiration, and she made an indelible mark on those that knew her. During her short time with us, she demonstrated that while life is transitory, the love of life is eternal.

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