Im Memoriam: Susan Friel-Williams (1954-2021)

Today we learned of the passing of Susan Friel-Williams on October 21 in Fort Myers, Florida.  Susan was a veteran adoptee rights activist and searcher. whose work goes back decades.

I first ran into Susan in the early 1990s on the legendary newsgroup alt.adoption. Until then I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “real” searcher. It was a different time then, with much less technology and mainstream networking than we have now. I guess I thought that searching was something people did pretty much on their own as I did in 1980.  Over the next few years, I learned that Susan was a  tenacious researcher and expert digger. She helped me in some of my own oppositional projects but surprisingly  I once found a relative of hers in Australia when she couldn’t!  What a flip-flop!

Susan was adopted by her maternal grandparents (something I didn’t know.) She began her life’s work in AdoptionLand after meeting her birthfather and his family. From her obituary:

This journey led Susan to become a private investigator specializing in reuniting families. In the early days of the internet, she created one of the first reunion registries for adoptees and birth parents to locate one another. Eventually, Susan opened her own firm, Search Quest America, in Cape Coral, Florida. Susan was very proud to be a published author, and contributed a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul. As a former member of the Board of Directors at American Adoption Congress, she attended conferences and advocated for the rights of adoptees and birth parents. Together with her team, Susan reunited thousands of families over the years. She believed “an invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of the time, place, and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.”

Susan was a long-time member of the American Adoption Congress and in later years a board member. The last time I saw Susan was at the 2016  AAC conference in Denver. Although we had some long-standing strategic differences we met informally to discuss the importance of a united “no compromise” voice in the movement, her desire to bring certain factions into the fold., and how we could accomplish that seemingly insurmountable task. She did the heavy lifting. It took a while but yielded the results we have today in the much more united movement that is restoring our rights to our records. Susan’s work, however,  gained her the enmity of others who chose to continue an incremental self-defeatist strategy that helps no one., taking the heat from a  small group of cranky naysayers who accused her of all manner of evil for taking the high road to the dark side. That is, doing the right thing.

Susan encountered some serious health problems a couple of years ago and was forced to step back from her work, but she and her work are not forgotten.

Bastard Nations sends our condolences to Susan’s family

Rest in Power, Susan.

...Marley Greiner, Executive Chair, Bastard Nation



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