Suzanne Prillaman Lowry, 88, of Ithaca, NY, passed away at home on October 3, 2023. Born January 11, 1935, to Doris and Henry A. Prillaman, Suzanne was raised in Howertons, VA, a small town 35 miles east of Richmond. After losing her father in a tragic accident in 1943 at only 8 years old, Suzanne and her younger sister Mary Jane were single handedly raised by their very strong and devoted mother, and the three shared a tight bond throughout their lives.
In 1956 Suzanne graduated from Longwood College in Farmville, VA, with a B.S. in Home Economics Education. After graduation, she taught school in Richmond, VA for three years before heading north to pursue a Master’s Degree in Textiles and Apparel at Cornell University.
It was here one evening in a laundromat on Eddy Street in Collegetown, that Suzanne met her future husband Austin, when, as he recalled, he walked in to find the incredibly beautiful southerner pulling his wet laundry out of the washer because he’d been down the block at the Royal Palm Tavern enjoying himself too much to remember his laundry. After an initial frosty introduction, she was quickly charmed by her handsome suitor, and accepted his dinner invitation after forgiving him for his lack of laundromat etiquette.
Suzanne and Austin married in June 1961 - one month after her graduation from Cornell - and settled in Ithaca where she became an Assistant Professor in the Textiles and Apparel Department of Cornell’s School of Human Ecology. In 1966, Suzanne was honored by Outstanding Young Women of America - a national program sponsored by leading women's organizations throughout the country, dedicated to recognizing and encouraging young women who give their time and efforts to the betterment of community, country, and profession. That year she was asked to return to Longwood to speak as a Founder’s Day panelist.
After her son and daughter were born, Suzanne spent 15 years at home with them, making them the most loved, safe, and cared for children one could imagine. With her background in education, she taught them everything she could, and with her numerous talents, patience, and enthusiasm, she created a fun and exciting environment, forever encouraging them to read, to spend time outside, to be creative, to be a good friend and a good guest, and to always, always be polite and kind. If there was something they wanted to cook, sew, engineer, or build, she usually knew how, but if not, she figured it out alongside them. She was a terrific cook, and she entertained beautifully, and often. She was an extremely gifted seamstress, and made many things for her family, her home, her community, and herself. She had impeccable taste, and being in the textiles field, she had extensive knowledge of fabrics and their uses, and could spot quality a mile away.
Learning from their mother, Suzanne and her sister made beautiful suits and dresses for themselves in the 1950s and 1960s, and because Suzanne had preserved them so well, 30 years later her daughter was able to dig up a few of her Jackie Kennedy style pieces, including a pink boucle dress and matching jacket, which she proudly wore to work in New York City.
Suzanne volunteered and put her all into everything that needed her help - from her children’s schools and 4-H, to the Ellis Hollow Fair and Community Center, Ithaca Garden Club, and countless other charitable organizations. She played Bridge with various groups for 60 years, and enjoyed many close, long-lasting friendships with her college friends, Ellis Hollow neighbors, colleagues, and dinner group which met monthly for over 40 years. She had an insatiable desire to learn and she attended many lectures at Cornell well into her retirement, and read anything she could get her hands on.
When her children were in high school, Suzanne returned to the workforce and took a position teaching a unique dual curriculum of Home Economics and Child Development at Ithaca High School where half her classroom was a home economics lab, and the other half a nursery school, where her high school students received hands on experience in lesson planning and execution with the preschool children. Suzanne retired from Ithaca High School the same month her first grandchild was born, and she became an incredibly loving and hands-on nana, never missing a birthday, holiday, or special event with them. Nana was adored by her grandchildren and they loved assisting her in the many projects she dreamt up for them. Suzanne deeply loved and admired her daughter-in-law Carlyn, and son-in-law John, and in turn, they showered her with love, care, and attention.
In Suzanne’s later years, she struggled with chronic back pain and a neurological disorder, but true to form, she never complained. She remained stoic, positive, and dedicated to her family. She exemplified grace, resilience and perseverance, and showed all of those around her what strength really is. She taught us all what is important - to love, support, and care for one other. We are all better for having known her.
Suzanne was predeceased by her parents, and by her husband Austin in 2020. She is survived by her sister Mary Jane Cooke (Gene Cooke) of Richmond, VA; son Brian Lowry (Carlyn Carey) of Dennisport, MA; daughter Heather Cundey (John Bartlett) of Cohasset, MA; grandchildren Alison Cundey of Boston, MA; Nicholas Cundey of Bethlehem, PA; Phebe Lowry of Burlington, VT; and several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Suzanne’s life will be held Saturday, November 4, 2023, at 3 pm, at Kendal Ithaca, 2230 N Triphammer Rd., Ithaca, NY.