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To Find a Friend

The extraordinary legacy of the McBurney Y's friend Susan Madigan

Susan MadiganSusan Madigan was an unforgettable friend of the YMCA.

Three of the people who cared about her most told us the story of why she was such a remarkable human being:

  • Peter G. Eschauzier, her brother
  • Alix Madigan, her daughter
  • Sam Suarez, the aquatics supervisor of the McBurney YMCA

Peter: Our family is Dutch by birth, all born on the island of Java when it was still part of the Dutch East Indies. Our father and his father were also born there. Our dad was the operations manager of a family-owned sugar plantation.

During the war, in April 1942, we were prevented from leaving after Java was invaded in March by the Japanese. The following month we were all rounded up and detained in a Japanese concentration camp for the next several years. My 29-year-old mother had a 7 year old (Susan), a 5 year old (a sister whom we lost years ago) and me, at 18 months old.

Alix: Later, she spent most of her life in New York. She went swimming early in the morning and was so close to the other people there whom she saw every day and was so proud to be on the board of the organization. When she was in the hospital after her stroke, Sam, the McBurney Y aquatics supervisor, sent a text asking where she was and hoping she was OK. As I was in Los Angeles, it made me happy to know that she had a close community in the Y. My mom loved being a part of the McBurney YMCA and it was a tremendous part of her life.

Sam: Susan was a 5:30 (a.m.) swimmer. She always said to me, "Sam, you have to read voraciously; you have to be present in the moment."

Alix: It's true! She was a tremendous reader. When I was little she would cut out articles from The New Yorker, put them in shopping bags, and bring them with her on our vacations during the summer.

Sam: Early in the morning she would sit down and talk with me about everything. "I'll be in California for two weeks with my daughter," she said a few years ago. Alix is an acclaimed film producer and she was nominated for an Oscar.

Susan Madigan

Susan helped rebuild homes in Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy. Everyone who met her loved her.

Alix: One of my favorite pictures is of her wearing a tool belt and carrying a hammer while rebuilding Rockaway homes after Hurricane Sandy.

Sam: She was always so generous. She would give more and more and was already on the board. One day I said, "Why don't you join the Heritage Society?" The Heritage Society is the Y's association of people who have made endowment gifts or included the Y in their estate plans. Susan's goal was to help, and through the Heritage Society she could continue to do that. Susan joined the Heritage Society in 2015.

Peter: Susan's McBurney Y family organized a tribute to Susan after she passed. When Alix couldn't attend, I came down from Massachusetts to attend. I was overwhelmed by the turnout and was fortunate enough to have lunch with the two men who took Susan to the movies the night before she died.

Losing Susan has been very tough on so many of us. Sam spoke at the memorial service and had everybody in tears. He was in tears himself, and I'm about to cry just telling you this. His recollection of my sister was so touching. He said, "Everybody was talking about what a legacy she left."

Sam: At the McBurney entrance it says, "Enter here to be and find a friend." Everybody knew her name. And Susan was my friend.

To learn more about making a planned or immediate endowment gift for yourself or in memory of someone you have lost, please visit ymcanyc.planmylegacy.org/the-heritage-society.

Make a Difference

To become a member of our Heritage Society, please contact Patti Davis at (212) 630-9625 or pdavis@ymcanyc.org.

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