Susan West Friedman; Tireless Activist was Passionate About Righting Social Injustices
Whether she was marching for civil rights in the 1960s, demonstrating against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or advocating for marriage equality, Susan West Friedman was never content to wait for others to make the changes that she believed necessary.
Friends and fellow activists said she had a strong sense of righting social injustices while also imparting a positive, enthusiastic energy that was encouraging and attractive to others.
Although she had lived in San Diego less than five years, she made an impact and many friends in the activist community. She was on the board of Activist San Diego and was involved with several local peace and justice organizations.
Ms. Friedman died of brain cancer Oct. 31 at her San Diego home. She was 59.
Her passion for social justice could be traced to her years growing up in a white suburban area less than 30 minutes from New York City, said her husband, Martin Eder. In high school, she marched in the civil rights movement, and decades later she was still marching and demonstrating for peace and justice.
"She was a very dedicated, passionate and effective activist and organizer," said Carol Jahnkow, director of the Peace Resource Center and co-coordinator of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice. "She thought that a better world was possible, and she didn't wait for others to make the change. She was a tireless worker."
Jahnkow said Ms. Friedman was among those who spearheaded the campaign to stop an effort by the military contractor then known as Blackwater to develop a training facility in Otay Mesa.
Tanja Winter, co-founder of Activist San Diego, said Ms. Friedman was respected for her passion and intelligence.
"She was extremely committed and very smart. She fit right in when she arrived in San Diego," Winter said. "Susan was very friendly and all-inclusive. She cared about many different issues (under the umbrella) of social justice."
Ms. Friedman was an active member of CodePink, a women's anti-war group, when she lived in New York, and she continued her involvement when she moved to San Diego, said Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the group.
"Susan brought a lot of enthusiasm and lightheartedness to her activism," Benjamin said. "She would take the issue seriously, but she didn't take herself seriously. Her presence was always very inviting. She was so uniquely positive in her outlook that she attracted other people."
Susan West Friedman was born March 6, 1950, in New York to Mort and Betty West. She grew up in New Rochelle, N.Y., and earned a bachelor's degree in art from Boston University.
She met Martin Eder in the 1970s when both were attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. They were among a group of students who were interested in the process of social change and traveled for six months throughout South America. After going their separate ways, Ms. Friedman and Eder re-connected about five years ago and married a year ago.
In the intervening years, Ms. Friedman married and had two daughters. She lived most of her life in New York and had a career in real estate marketing. She divorced her first husband six years ago.
In addition to her volunteer activism, Ms. Friedman enjoyed nature, cooking and socializing. She and Eder visited several national parks and did a lot of camping and hiking, including climbing Half Dome in Yosemite last year.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Friedman is survived by two daughters, Allie of Los Angeles and Melissa of New York; her mother, Betty West of Palm Beach, Fla.; and a brother, Robert West of New York.
A celebration of life will be held starting at 3 p.m. today and will be followed by a potluck at the Friedman-Eder home in San Diego.
Before her death, Ms. Friedman helped start the Susan West Friedman Fund for Civil and Human Rights. Donations may be made through SusanWestFriedmanFund.org.