Death Date: June 20, 2018
DECATUR- Eileen Ruski, activist, advocate, and lifelong champion for others, died on June
20. Eileen was the mother of Robert Ruski, Kelly Gonzalez, and Maureen Ruski. In 1983, Eileen married Marshall Susler, becoming mother to his children Jan Susler, Julie Susler Blum, Jody Susler Schneeberg, and David Susler. Eileen had seven grandchildren: Aaron and Daniel Blum, Jason Gonzalez, Devon and Malone Ruski Moretti, and Simone and Stella Rose Schneeberg. She had one grandson: Jahmier Gonzalez.
Eileen was born in New York, New York, in 1938 to John and Mabel (nee Rooney) Chambers, hard-working parents who demonstrated the importance of character and loyalty. Eileen had a fierce love for her family and a never-ending devotion to her sisters Maureen McGrath and Colleen DeTroy, her brothers Donald, John, and Kevin Chambers, and their respective spouses and children. Eileen’s devotion to family was evident as she maintained genuine relationships with them all, even though they lived far away. Eileen worked in fashion and sales at an early age and was on the cutting edge of fashion and home entertainment.
Eileen supported her three children by working as a laborer at Wagner Casting’s Iron Foundry. During her 25 years there, her work ethic and genuine concern for others garnered their respect. She encouraged many people to live their best lives as she validated their selfÂ worth and promoted their education. She retired as Core Room Foreman.
The foundry was not Eileen’s only workplace. During a foundry layoff, Eileen was a coal miner at Peabody Coal Mine. When asked about being the first (and only) woman in the mine, she explained that “within five minutes in the mine, it didn’t matter: we were all equally filthy.” After retiring from Wagner’s, Eileen enjoyed a sales stint at VonMaur. Her customers appreciated her sense of style and her encouragement to push their fashion boundaries.
Eileen was active in the community. She was a member and president of the local National Organization for Women, a board member for Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center, and a member of the Golden K’s Kiwanis Club. She tutored for Project READ and volunteered in the History Room at the Decatur Public Library. Her home was a safe house for women fleeing domestic violence. She belonged to the Prison Watch League and the Macon County Coalition against the Death Penalty.
Eileen was a founding member of the community theater group Theatre 7. She built sets, worked backstage, and helped with props, makeup, and ushering. She performed in numerous shows and won a JayJay for her performance as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Eileen made the people around her want to be better. She was a strong woman, she raised strong women (and an enlightened son) and in turn taught them how to raise strong women. She was a lover of all and a fighter for those who were unable to fight for themselves. She was a laborer and a lover and no one and nothing could dampen her spirit or her soul. She shone brighter than the spotlight on stage and pulled those around her into the light, brightening even the darkest of days. Her smile was radiant and her laugh infectious. She was sassy and smart. She was known for her endless generosity and compassion.
Eileen died from complications of behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration, a progressive, degenerative brain disease. bvFTD is the second most common form of dementia in those under 65 and robs its victims of their personality and judgment. There is no treatment and no cure.
The public is invited to a memorial service on Saturday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m. at First Congregational United Church of Christ at 3465 N. MacArthur Rd. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in her name to the www.theaftd.org website or the www.aclu.org website. If you wish to send condolences, please send to www.moranandgoebel.com.