July 1, 1941 – September 7, 2021
Age 80. It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Susan “Suzi” Rowena (née Bradley) Vargas, beloved wife, mother grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She has departed this earthly existence to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom she sustained unwavering faith throughout her life. Those who knew her will always cherish their memories of her vivacious energy and profound determination, her radiant beauty and the artistry she brought to all her endeavors, and the clear-sighted wisdom she so bravely imparted with both the greatest love and the fiercest tenacity. Susan impacted the lives of everyone she met, and she will be most sorely missed by those who were closest to her. But, because of the amazing woman she was, she has left us all as better people for having known her, and thus empowered us with the means to move forward in our lives, though we must do so without her.
Susan was the eldest of four children born to William Strauther Bradley and Rowena Amelia (née Steele) Bradley. She spent many sunny childhood days growing up in New Mexico and Arizona; visits to her Grand Dad’s ranch created many special memories for her, which she would later love retelling to her own children and grandchildren. Her sunny surroundings matched her outgoing and passionate personality, as well as her beautiful red hair. She spent her high school years in Tucson, Arizona graduating with honors from Amphitheater High School in 1959. On October 24, 1959 she married the love of her life, Joseph “Joe” Vargas, and began the joyful union that would span the next 62 years, taking them from Arizona to Alaska, and back again, and bringing them many adventures, four children and six grandchildren along the way.
Suzi enjoyed a successful career throughout the 1960’s and ’70’s, which began as a clerk at a life insurance company and progressed through various positions as a private secretary, junior account executive for a CPA firm, loan processor for a mortgage company, and a prestigious position as Executive Secretary to the Vice President of Mortgage Lending at a major Arizona bank. Her natural creativity, acute eye for detail, and superlative organizational skills flourished in the business environment, and would prove invaluable when, in 1984, in Fairbanks, Alaska, she and Joe launched Denali Fenceworks, a business venture which operated successfully for 35 years and achieved the financial stability that they would need to sustain them in their retirement years.
Throughout her life, Susan developed many artistic pursuits, exhibiting her own paintings at several art shows and selling some of her works. One event she greatly enjoyed as a banking executive was overseeing the annual art show, and she also assisted with cataloging and curating the bank’s art collection. As a young woman, she supplemented her income by working as a runway model-a natural fit with her expressive flair for style. She took great joy in decorating her family’s home, always designing a striking and beautiful environment in which to raise her family and entertain their guests. And could she ever throw a wonderful party! She will be forever remembered for her outstanding cooking and her ability to always present a stylish and perfectly coordinated appearance. Holidays were made magical by her extraordinary ability to “deck the halls” with a whimsical grace that can never be replicated.
In 1969 Joe began working summers in Alaska, and in 1970 Suzi and the three eldest children came to spend an idyllic six months there, living in a charming ski chalet in Girdwood within walking distance of the then-tiny resort, and the family fell in love with The Last Frontier. Hiking, berry picking (sometimes with bears around), exploring and mushroom collecting, world class fishing, going to school that was held in an ATCO unit down the road, and their first real, snow fort-worthy snowfall. After returning to Tucson and the birth of their fourth child, the family drove the Alcan Highway to Anchorage, Alaska, arriving in April to their new home. Joe’s advancement at work brought the family to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1974. Susan soon established her own business typing, editing and proofreading. The family had many adventures in their new home, settling in the Goldstream Valley on the outskirts of Fairbanks in 1975; adjusting well to the long summer days and the cold, dark winters which sometimes dropped to 60 degrees below zero! Each July 4th the family would drive to Homer, Alaska for camping, clam digging, crabbing, fishing, exploring and fireworks on the beach.
Susan pursued studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, specializing in Journalism and Art, and at Tanana Valley Community College learning, Conversational Japanese. She tutored executives of Japan Air Lines and their families in English, making lifelong friends along the way. Susan was a member of The Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi), Fairbanks Symphony Guild, Fairbanks Symphony Association, Quota International, Extension Homemakers of America, Literacy Council of Alaska, Monroe Hockey Boosters Association, Christ Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church Women, Camp Fire Girls leader and board member, and the Women’s International Bowling Congress. She was especially honored to meet with White House, Papal advance teams and the U.S. Secret Service in connection with the visit to Fairbanks of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II on May 2, 1984; in charge of credentialing the Press. The most important achievements of all to Suzi were excelling in her roles as a wife and homemaker, though she might prefer the title of Household Executive! She will always be remembered for her warm and outgoing personality, her artistic talents, her undying love for her husband and family, and her zest for life.
Suzi is survived by her beloved husband of 62 years, Joe Vargas; daughters, Diana Hamilton, Delisa deVargas, Amy Brighida deVargas and son, Joseph deVargas; adored grandchildren, William Baker, Paloma deVargas, Berkano Kleymeyer-deVargas, Sionnach Kleymeyer-deVargas, Jamie Keenan-deVargas and Riona Keenan-deVargas; brothers, Bill (Crystal) Bradley, Sid (Cindy) Bradley and sister, Judy Bradley; nieces, Justine Bradley, Pam (Rick) Wilson and Emily Bradley and nephews, Alec (Maryann) Hitchman and Tyler (Marisol) Bradley, as well as Suzi’s beloved friend and “adopted daughter,” Betty McIntosh; sister-in-law, Elena (Tom) Williams; brothers-in-law, Don (Susie) Vargas, David Vargas and Gary (Michellea) Vargas; nephews, Scott (Carol) Colledge, Bret Colledge, Bart (Jacqueline) Colledge, Eric Colledge, Paul Vargas, Ryan Vargas, Ricky Vargas and Joey Vargas; nieces, Jody Colledge, Debbie Vargas and Melissa Vargas. She was preceded in death by her parents and her nephew, David Bradley. A private inurnment ceremony will be held at East Lawn Palms Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, October 23, 2021, followed by a private Celebration of Life held at the Vargas residence. The family requests that in lieu of any flowers, a donation in her honor be made to The Leukemia And Lymphoma Society at https://givenow.lls.org, or to a charity of your choice.
Published by Arizona Daily Star on Oct. 10, 2021.