Cover photo for Susan Pearsall McCarthy's Obituary
Susan Pearsall McCarthy Profile Photo
1943 Susan 2024

Susan Pearsall McCarthy

January 21, 1943 — January 11, 2024

Austin, TX

Susan Pearsall McCarthy, 80, native daughter of Jacksonville, Texas, died peacefully in her home state on January 11, 2024, surrounded by family and friends. Ever the archetypal activist, she fought, petitioned, campaigned, litigated, and dedicated her life to the progressive movement for more inclusion, dignity, and equality for all.  

 Susan was preceded in death by her beloved husband, David; her parents, Theodore and Elizabeth Pearsall; and her brother, Theodore Jr. "Teddy" Pearsall. She is survived by her sister Priscilla Pearsall and numerous nieces and nephews: Elizabeth Pearsall Lippincott, Karen (Dan) Fleming, Alan (Carole) McCarthy, Michael (Carol) McCarthy, Kevin (Robin) McCarthy, Maria McCarthy, Joan (Greg) Lasonde, James (Nanette) McCarthy, John (Lee) McCarthy, and Maureen (Phil) Prale; and 14 great nieces and nephews.  

 After graduation from Wellesley College in 1965, Susan worked on Capitol Hill for U.S. Representative Wright Patman (D-TX) and the Joint Economic Committee, before gravitating to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

In the early 1970's, Susan’s studies led her to Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she completed her master’s program in Sephardic Judaism. It was here that Susan met and fell in love with her soulmate, David McCarthy.  

 On their return from Israel, Susan and David settled in Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin. They married in 1978 and remained “on their honeymoon” until David’s death in 2015. 

 Susan continued her active work in progressive politics, including lobbying for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1988 and spent her career with Legal Action of Wisconsin, concentrating her practice on migrant workers' rights and family law.

 Susan balanced her life of activism and advocacy with her love of theatre and literature.  Every fall, Susan and David traveled to Chicago for weekend getaways with her nieces and nephews at the Lyric Opera. Conversely, every summer her nieces and nephews returned the visit by “hiking up the hill” with Susan and David at the American Players Theatre in Spring Green to enjoy Shakespeare under the stars. 

 Throughout her life, Susan built enduring friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds. She and David loved hosting family and friends including David's students from UW, some of whom became lifelong friends. Susan was particularly active with Snowflower Sangha, Trinity United Methodist Church and her book club. Susan's intelligence, kindness and passion for equity and justice will be greatly missed. 

 Susan's family is indebted to the team from BrightStar Care in Madison, Wisconsin who made Susan's and David's last years at home safe and comfortable; and the staff at Brookdale Northwest Hills-Clare Bridge in Austin, who cared for Susan with their whole hearts.

 A memorial celebration of Susan’s life will be held on May 4 at Natural Path Sanctuary at the Farley Center for Peace, Justice & Sustainability in Verona, Wisconsin where Susan will be reunited with her beloved, David. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to American Players Theatre, or 608-588-9209; or the Farley Center, 2299 Spring Rose Rd, Verona, WI 53593 or

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