Noe Valley Voice October 2003

Remembering Sue Ochs

Editor's Note: Noe Valley resident Stephanie Levin sent the Voice this loving tribute to her friend Sue Ochs.

On Aug. 18, 2003, longtime Noe Valley resident Sue Ochs died at home after a strong, spirited battle with breast cancer. She was 54.

Sue came to San Francisco from Boston with her daughter Danielle in the early 1980s. They rented an apartment on 23rd Street. Four years later, Ramon Sender and Judith Levy-Sender bought the building that Sue lived in.

"Sue was an exemplary tenant, neighbor, and close friend. She was a marvelous human being," says Noe Valley Ministry administrator Ramon Sender.

I met Sue through my daughter, Camille. Sue's second daughter, Hannah, and Camille shared a babysitter.

Sue was a wonderful mother and cherished grandmother. She lived simply, surrounded by family, friends, flowers, books, and art. She was an accomplished watercolorist, enjoyed hiking, and took in opera now and then.

Sue lived her beliefs. She never strayed from her family, community, or professional values. She loved children and animals, and was never too busy to welcome the numerous neighborhood kids who walked through her door.

In Sue's opinion, there was no better place to live than in Noe Valley. She was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, in her clogs and fanny pack, shopping on 24th Street, with Hannah hanging onto one hand and her dog Sophie on the other.

Sue opted out of a cushy downtown office to work at home. She worked diligently as a civil rights lawyer and took great pride in her work. She accepted cases others didn't want to tackle, cases that brought her neither fame nor financial gain. She practiced law because she loved it. She believed in helping people and cared greatly about the judicial system and those she represented.

Sue was my first friend when I moved to San Francisco. She exemplified the word "friend." Sue gave freely and without expectation. Her heart was gentle, her mind engaging. She was private with her emotions, yet expansive with her heart and possessions.

In the end, Sue was brave, courageous, and pragmatic about her cancer.

"I don't want cancer to be what my life is about. It's in my life, but it is not my life," Sue noted on more than on occasion.

Sue is survived by her two daughters, Danielle Ochs-Tillotson, and Hannah Ochs, her son-in-law David Tillotson, her grandchildren Micah, Jada, and Skyler, and many friends. We will all miss Sue tremendously.

--Stephanie Levin