The pelican papers

A big bird’s eye view

Susan Elizabeth George Utley, 1953-2012

Steven Utley reading a 58th birthday card

Steven Utley: Sue’s husband, a man for all seasons

Susan Elizabeth George Utley of Corpus Christi, a retired public school teacher and certified music minister of the United Methodist Church, died Tuesday, June 19, 2012, after a long illness. She was 58.

Sue was born in Oceanside, Calif., on Sept. 24, 1953, daughter of Martha Elizabeth Berry George, originally of Salado, Texas, and Marshall Eugene George, originally of San Benito, Texas, who at the time was a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Sue grew up on the move from Oceanside to Corpus Christi, Arlington, Va., Vista, Calif., and New Orleans, La., where her father retired in 1967 then returned to Corpus Christi to open an accounting practice. Marshall died in 2002.

Sue graduated from W.B. Ray High School in 1971 and completed an associate’s degree in music at Del Mar College. She moved to Misawa, Japan, where she became an accomplished, formally-educated and certified seamstress. She returned to Corpus Christi in 1977. She worked as a seamstress and, in 1981, completed a bachelor of arts degree in music at Corpus Christi State University.

From 1991 to 1994, Sue completed the Church Music Summer School program at the Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University. She met Steven Utley in December 2001at Wesley United Methodist Church, where she was music director. They married in June 2002.

Steve recalls the day they decided to marry while on an island outing during which Sue said she wanted to see dolphins. Steve thought it unlikely that they’d see dolphins in the Gulf from Mustang Island, but sure enough, they spotted a pod at play that seemed to follow them all the way to the Port Aransas jetties. Steve, meanwhile, was praying, asking God for a sign that marriage was the next step in their relationship. As he and Sue watched the dolphins from the jetties, a turtle poked its head above the surface of the water amid the jetty stones and winked at Steve. They set a date soon thereafter.

Sue retired in 2008 after 26 years with the Corpus Christi Independent School District. A certified teacher of art, music and technology applications for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, she taught orchestra at Hamlin Junior High School, W.B. Ray High School, Baker Middle School and Wynn Seale Academy of Fine Arts. She completed a master of science degree in educational technology in 2000 at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and retired as Arts-Rich Curriculum (ARC) program coordinator at Wynn Seale.

Jake

Jake: Protective, vigilant, loyal and true

Sue was a certified church musician and choir director, serving congregations at Wesley UMC and Island in the Son United Methodist Church on Mustang Island. From November 2009 until May 2011, she was part-time administrator for the City of Corpus Christi’s Regional Health Awareness Board. For the last four years of her life, Sue was business manager and webmaster for Blue Heron Adventures in partnership with Steven, a licensed fishing guide.

Sue was a voracious reader and amateur ceramicist. She once played violin in the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, even though she hadn’t begun learning the instrument before she studied music at Del Mar College. Music was her passion, especially church music, and leading choirs and congregations in musical worship was her special gift. She was at home in classical and contemporary worship settings, earning respect and admiration from instrumentalists and choristers alike.

Late in life, she discovered the joys and challenges of working outdoors with Steven as they developed Blue Heron Adventures. She loved taking photographs in the wild from a kayak, not only of the big birds but also the big fish Steven caught.

Sue’s quiet demeanor obscured a tenacious desire to succeed in whatever she did and to overcome obstacles that lay in the path. She made herself at home wherever she was – in a church sanctuary or a kayak, or on stage as the Fiddler in the 1993 Harbor Playhouse production of Fiddler on the Roof, or at home curled up in a blanket with a good book.

She was unpretentious, honest, intelligent and steady as a well-trimmed sail, a loving wife, mother, daughter and sister to the end of her days. She never lost her sense of humor, even as she lay afflicted by brain tumors that ended her life.

She is survived by her husband, Steven Utley, and her mother, Martha George; a son, Michael Reese, all of Corpus Christi; and Steven’s children, whom Sue regarded as her own; also, a brother, Ronald Eugene George and his wife, Mary K. Sherwood; and a sister, Reba Nell George and her partner, Deb Nivens, all of Corpus Christi. Among those who will miss her most are numerous cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws; and friends, including the Rev. Linda Morrow of Corpus Christi and the Rev. Dana Hamilton, of Wimberley; Claire and Chris Onuf of Santa Fe, N.M., church families at Wesley and Island in the Son; and her beloved household pets – Jake the golden lab, Callie the rat terrier and Oreo the very large and lovable cat.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 30, 2012, at Island in the Son, 10650 State Highway 361 on Mustang Island. Sue requested that her ashes be interred by Steven at a time and place of his choosing. The family asks that donations be made in lieu of flowers to the Susan George Utley Memorial Choral Music Scholarship fund at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: 6300 Ocean Drive, Unit 5741, 78412. The family wishes to thank members of Wesley UMC and Island in the Son for their help in the last year of Sue’s life; also, Simone Lund, whose professional assistance and personal devotion were indispensable and deeply appreciated.

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2 Responses to “Susan Elizabeth George Utley, 1953-2012”

  1. Sue was a great person, we will miss her. So sorry for your loss…

  2. LissaDavidson, Cindy Clark, DC and Doris said

    Ron and Family. We at Holy Innocents send our deepest sympathies for your loss. Sue will be remembered in all our prayers. We love you Ron.

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