Susan Mary McReynolds dressed up for a photo in a flower print shirt against a standard backdrop
Susan Mary McReynolds, in a school photo. Courtesy of her family

Susan Mary McReynolds, beloved matriarch and longtime Berkeley resident, died peacefully on Sept. 29 at the age of 70 with her family by her side after a long battle with breast cancer. Susan was a humble woman with a heart of gold who overcame many hardships and positively impacted the lives of countless children as an elementary school teacher.

Susan was born on Aug. 29, 1953, in Hollywood, California, and spent most of her childhood in Berkeley, where she attended Anna Head School for Girls. At age 13, she moved to the Dominican Republic with her family while her father was on special assignment for work. When they returned to the Bay Area, Susan attended Los Altos High School and graduated with the class of 1970.

After high school, Susan settled in Visalia, California, to raise a family. She was married for approximately 10 years and had three children. In 1983, she moved back to Berkeley in the Elmwood neighborhood with her children. In 1987, Susan graduated from CSU East Bay with a BA in Journalism, Ethnic Studies and Mass Communication, deftly juggling her full-time course load with the demands of single parenthood.

Susan briefly considered a career in public affairs and did some campaign work for the US Senate race in 1986, but soon realized that being a teacher was her true calling. She returned to CSU East Bay to obtain her teaching credential in 1988, and received a Masters degree in Education from UC Berkeley in 1994.

Susan Mary McReynolds holding a baby and a bowl of candy
Susan Mary McReynolds with one of her grandchildren. Courtesy of her family

Susan had an uncommonly clear sense of purpose as a teacher. She found true joy in reaching even the most vulnerable, challenging and marginalized children, and she remains beloved by many of her former students to this day. Susan taught at several schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, but her favorite school was Kensington Hilltop Elementary school, where she spent several years teaching kindergarten and was affectionately known as “Mrs. Mac” to her students. 

Outside of work, Susan was a nature enthusiast who loved to explore the Bay Area backroads, and was an active member of the Bay Area Travel Writers association for several years. She also possessed a beautiful singing voice and was a member of the choir at St. Columba church in Oakland. After retiring, Susan relished her role as grandmother and spent as much time as possible with her growing family. In the final year of her life, Susan took an interest in cultivating butterflies and released her first kaleidoscope of monarchs into the wild.

Susan is survived by her three children (Richard, Stephanie, and Alexander), five grandchildren (Celestiel, Lumina, Leonidas, Rex, and Oisin), and numerous extended family members.

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