Suzy Crowell, who served as a San Marino mayor and city councilwoman and was an indispensable volunteer for a number of local institutions, passed away on New Year’s Eve at age 81.
“It is with profound sadness but also very grateful hearts that we watched Suzy pass peacefully from 2020 into eternity last evening,” her family said in a statement released last Friday morning. “Not enough words to express the faith, love and impact on so many and in so many ways.”
Among other qualities, Crowell, who had been battling multiple health issues for several years, will be remembered for her philanthropy, leadership and kindness, longtime friends said. She was also a supportive wife and devoted mother and grandmother who profoundly impacted her family, friends and community.
“This is a huge loss,” said Rary Simmons, who was friends with Crowell since the late 1970s. “And a huge loss for her family.”
When asked to provide a summary of his mother’s volunteer history, Donald Crowell Jr. responded, “Everything. All her life.”
Born Suzanne Capps in Los Angeles, Crowell graduated from Marlborough School before attending Art Center School — now ArtCenter College of Design — and USC, where she was a member of Delta Gamma sorority. She married Donald Crowell in 1959, and the couple moved to San Marino in 1965 for the reason many do: its excellent schools. Their first-born, Donald Jr., was soon joined by Andrew, and while her husband grew his family’s brokerage business, Crowell, Weedon & Co., Suzy immersed herself in the community. She served as her son’s den mother and Scout mom and was even head scorekeeper of San Marino National Little League.
Winnie Reitnouer remembers well those early days.
“How to condense 55 years of friendship, with the remarkable Suzy Crowell?” said Reitnouer. The two met in 1964, when Winnie’s husband, Lynn, went to work for Crowell, Weedon.
“We bought a house on Lorain Road, and later learned Suzy and Don Crowell were moving into a house on Roxbury Road with two very little boys,” recalled Reitnouer. “I invited them for dinner and for a surprise dessert baked a welcome-to-San Marino cake shaped and frosted like a house and wrote 950 by the door in icing. I really did not know Suzy until that evening, but we became friends and that was the beginning of ongoing wonderful times that Suzy and I shared.”
Lynn Reitnouer, a former City Council member and mayor, was later credited with encouraging Suzy Crowell to toss her hat into the political ring. But that was just a slice of their long association.
“Our families skied together, and we grew very close to her boys,” Winnie Reitnouer said. “Suzy did everything well, and was an accomplished artist and cook. She was quick, funny, always positive and ready to laugh, a true friend, kind, loving and spiritual, devoted to her family and city. I loved her very much.”
Fellow San Marinan Lois Matthews frequently referred to Crowell as her “partner in crime,” though only beneficial projects resulted from their kinship. Crowell and Matthews famously led a volunteer effort to paint San Marino High School when the campus was in disrepair and the district claimed there were insufficient funds to properly finish the entire job. The project was hatched by Crowell and Matthews and was pulled off by a large group, mostly women, who saw a void and moved to fill it.
Crowell and Matthews would later repeat the effort when they co-chaired Grad Night for the graduating class of 1983, which was themed “Camelot.”
“Suzy Crowell was an innovator, an instigator and a loving, longtime and caring friend for over 40 years,” said Matthews. “We were board members of Huntington Hospital together and enjoyed many community involvements. Suzy will always be a shining light. She was an innovator and a doer.”
Expanding her volunteer efforts outside of city limits, Crowell became a legislative liaison and represented San Marino in Sacramento and Washington. She successfully ran for a seat on the City Council in 1986, becoming just the second woman to join that panel, following Simmons. She eventually served two terms and spent two years as mayor.
As her sons grew, so did her penchant for volunteerism. Besides serving Huntington Hospital, Crowell joined the board of Pasadena Guild of Children’s Hospital and Harvest Evangelism, was vice president of the Billy Graham Crusade in Pasadena and the University Kidney Research Organization, and eventually became a committee member for the San Marino Public Library. Crowell even launched a women’s prayer group she lovingly referred to as “the San Marino Saints.”
Crowell’s many contributions were acknowledged with several awards. She received the Honorary Service Award at the annual San Marino PTA Founders Day in 1985. The Rotary Club of San Marino named her an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow in 1987, the same year Simmons received a similar acknowledgement and a year before Matthews won hers. In 1981, Crowell was named a California Senate Woman of the Year. She was acknowledged as a distinguished citizen by the San Gabriel Valley Council, Boy Scouts of America in 2002 and was also named Citizen of the Year by the San Marino Republican Club.
But arguably the two most significant landmarks to the Crowell name are the Crowell School of Business at Biola University, which was established in 2007, and San Marino’s own Crowell Public Library, which was dedicated in 2008. Both were memorialized following the passing of Donald Crowell Sr. in June 2004. Suzy Crowell received an award for lifetime commitment and service to Biola students’ education and spiritual development.
Crowell’s final years were marked by her association with Port O’ Call, the iconic local gift and home accessory store she helped relaunch in 2017 and where she served as proprietor and partner along with J.D. Hornberger. Until recently, Crowell was an almost daily visitor to the store and had a keen eye for merchandising.
Though she knew her dear friend had recently been in failing health, Barbara Bice nevertheless said Crowell’s passing “touched me deeply.”
“I join the entire San Marino community in mourning a woman I knew for over 45 years as a parent and friend,” said Bice. “Over her countless years of service, Suzy was known and loved for her loyalty and devotion to family, friends, community organizations and the philanthropic world. Suzy’s strength of character, her unfailing dignity in good times and even as her health failed made her a role model for others with whom she bonded during her productive and rewarding life. The world has lost a wonderful woman.”
Crowell is survived by sons Donald Jr. and Andrew, daughters-in-law Gabriela and Keri and grandchildren Kristofer, Emily, Thomas, Christine.
The family plans to hold a memorial service at a later date.