Susan Johnson Hadler


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Susan Johnson Hadler was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Winnebago and learned to ice skate as soon as she could walk. In the ’60s during her four years in Madison at the University of Wisconsin, She listened to the Beatles and joined the protests against the War in Viet Nam. Then came marriage and graduate school in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she lived for the next five years and where her two children were born. After finishing her Masters at the University of Maryland, she left for three years in Tanzania where she worked in a clinic with Mama Phoebe and taught sewing and English and fell in love with the red earth, the baobab trees, and the women who grew peanuts and walked everywhere.

Stateside again, she completed a PhD in Human Development and learned to listen to the people who came to the clinic where she worked as a psychotherapist and later to her private office overlooking Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.

The search for her father, who was killed in WWII, led her to Ann Mix and the American War Orphans Network (AWON). She and Ann interviewed dozens of others whose fathers had been killed in WWII and together wrote Lost in the Victory, a book that broke the silence surrounding mention of their fathers’ deaths in war and how the fathers' deaths affected their lives. The search for her father grew into an ever-deepening connection, and she now feels as if she knows him.

Then she began the search for her mother's two sisters, Dorothy and Elinor, family she had also never met. Dorothy was easy to find and her laughter stays with Susan. The biggest surprise was finding Elinor alive at age 94 and then finding her children, Susan's cousins. Parts of the story of Susan's searches have been published in the Washingtonian, Reader’s Digest and the Mindfulness Bell.

A trip to Ladakh in northern India with a friend opened the door to meditation and Susan rediscovered an inner spaciousness she had known in the slower life in Africa and missed deeply. Extended retreats at Deer Park Monastery in California and Plum Village in France have taught her new ways to see herself and the world. Meditation and mindfulness have become a way of life as have writing and painting.

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