“I feel as if we are stewards of this house that was built in 1907,” said Share Care member Susan Ager of the former Plum Lane Inn in Northport that she and her husband Larry Coppard bought in 2001.
Located on six acres in the village of Northport, Susan and Larry plant and harvest an organic garden where they grow garlic (400 bulbs!), tomatoes, carrots along with other vegetables and a perennial garden.
“I love looking out any window, seeing birds, trees, sometimes water. I love knowing almost everybody I see in town,” she said.
Her affection for the community was expanded to commitment this past November when she was elected to be a member of the Northport Village council. “We all need to invest time and energy or else communities collapse,” she said.
“A member of the council approached me,” she said. “At first, I rejected the idea as I didn’t have a clue what was involved. But I have good research skills, I ask good questions and listen to people so I agreed to run. There’s many things going on here – the issue of housing and young families, growth of short term rentals, sewers and a Dark Sky committee as well as the regular business of approving spending and hiring people.”
Susan brings a worldly perspective to her community involvement.
An award-winning journalist, she graduated from Michigan State and made her way to California in the late 1970s, her world opening in ways she had not imagined.
“I met the first person I knew who was gay,” she said. “I began to see the gay community in a way I’d never seen them before. I learned about the ache about the lying and hiding they had to do. I was ashamed of myself for not knowing they existed.”
When she returned to Michigan, she joined the Detroit Free Press and stayed there for the rest of her full-time career. Many of her award-winning articles dealt with human relationships, AIDS and other diseases as well as profiles of people and neighborhoods.
“By the time I left the Free Press, I had published about 2,000 columns, about 1,000 other articles and was nominated multiple times for the Pulitzer Prize.” she said. In 2018 Susan was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.
“I left my full time career when the Freep was downsizing and never looked back,” she said. “I took the training to be a hospice volunteer. I like the aging and the elderly. There are so many lessons you can learn by talking with elderly people.”
“My mother died shortly after we moved up here,” Susan explained. “She was first person close to me who died. Hospice took care of us and her and I wanted to be helpful so that’s why I took the training. My mother was able to plan for her death – she had a very rare cancer which she learned about seven months before she died. Many people get involved with hospice too late. My mother was well enough when she got started with it that she prepared lunch when the hospice volunteer visited the first time!”
Susan has also been a volunteer for Share Care in the past. “I’ve done the driving , office work and phone calls to check in on people– anyone can do it.” At the same time, she has needed Share Care services herself.
“They’ve been so helpful to us,” she said. “I’m a bone breaker. I’ve needed lots of loans of equipment.”
Susan maintains her connection to the news world by consumption of three daily newspapers – New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal as well as magazines like the New Yorker.
“I also like off-beat fiction. I recently read Disappearing Earth (Julia Phillips) and The Winter Soldier (Daniel Mason).” One of Susan’s first acquaintances in Northport was Pamela Grath, owner of Dog Ears Books.
Nowadays, Susan enjoys spending time with Larry on their small boat, a Sea Dory. “My husband introduced me to the importance of water,” she said. In addition, she is grandmother to Katie, who “loves the lake” and focuses on “living simply and lightly on the earth.”