July 15, 1960 - August 31, 2019 Susan Gail Parker, retired teacher and avid amateur photographer, died Saturday, August 31 in Seattle after a 7-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 59. Susan was fiercely independent and known for her creativity, love of animals, and curiosity about the world around her. She taught multiple grades at elementary schools in Seattle for more than a dozen years, and enjoyed the cultural diversity that came with teaching the children of immigrants. She wrote poems, plays and short stories, including a children's book about Halloween that captivated her second graders. Her interests ranged from science to sports. She counted herself a devoted Mariners fan, even in lean seasons, and often tracked games inning by inning in a baseball diary she kept for many years. After a stroke in 2010 forced her give up the daily hubbub of the classroom, Susan reinvented herself as a beach naturalist for the Seattle Aquarium and a docent at the Woodland Park Zoo, and explained wildlife to the public in both venues for a nearly a decade. She researched her subjects extensively to prepare and prided herself on promoting conservation and environmental responsibility. As a naturalist, she gave on-the-beach talks along Seattle's shorelines on topics ranging from ocean acidification to the sense of hearing in fish. At the zoo, she came to know every animal by name and delighted visitors with tales of their daily habits and idiosyncrasies. If a crowd appeared at a particular exhibit, chances were good they gathered to hear Susan's narrative of what was going on in the enclosure. "Susan was an active, passionate and dedicated volunteer naturalist. Her commitment to raising awareness about the beauty and diversity of life along our beaches has helped further a regional interest in protecting and restoring our beloved Puget Sound," said Charlotte Spang, the beach naturalist program coordinator. "She worked with many different audiences of all ages from energetic school kids to local families to out-of-state visitors all of them eager to explore the beach with Susan and learn more about the mysterious and amazing ways of nature." Susan also occasionally tutored students in reading or math. And, she returned to the classroom herself as a photography student to master digital camera technology and sharpen her natural eye for a good shot. Robert Stahl, her photography instructor, said Susan developed a unique style in abstract and animal photography, often taking classmates along to the zoo. She also helped him organize a photography group called "Photo Phriends." "What a difference one life made. To know Susan was to be touched by her," Stahl said. "I salute the loving spirit that was Susan. She had a kind and gentle heart." Susan was born on July 15, 1960 in Mount Vernon, one of five daughters of school teacher parents, Bruce and Shirley Parker. Summers were spent camping and hiking in the Cascades or on the beach at the family vacation home on Lopez Island, one of her life-long favorite places. Winters found Susan on the slopes of Mount Baker, where she began skiing at age 3. She is a graduate of Mount Vernon High School, where she lettered in gymnastics, tennis and track, and the University of Washington , where she earned a bachelor's degree and her teaching credentials. Susan married in 1988 and divorced in 1998. In addition to her mother, Susan is survived by her four sisters, Linda, Laura, Julie, and Rebecca, and brothers-in-law Fred Gray and Bruce Amundson. A celebration of Susan's life will be held Tuesday, September 17 at 3 p.m. in the Fireside Room at the Great Hall at Green Lake at 7220 Woodlawn Avenue NE, Seattle. Charitable contributions in Susan's name may be made to the Woodland Park Zoo. As an undergraduate, Susan assisted scientists in the university's infant primate research lab, which led to work in another primate lab in Tempe, Arizona. When she returned to Seattle to begin her teaching career, her love of animals had only been strengthened, and when she became a volunteer at the zoo, she showed a special affinity for the zoo's primate families. "She was thoughtful and well informed ambassador for the zoo," said Dennis Dow, a friend, photography classmate and fellow zoo volunteer. "She also had a remarkable ability to connect with zoo animals. She will be missed by many of us at the zoo, both human and animal."