Susan Blanco and Steve in an altered photo of their wedding day. Photo submitted by Brady Blaco
When Susan Blaco passed away in the middle of the night on Jan. 31, just three days after her 70th birthday, friends and family didn’t expect that they would have to say goodbye so soon.
But as they said their farewells last week, they knew that Hermosa Beach had lost a truly local legend.
“She knew everything that happened in Hermosa Beach,” close friend Kathy Dunbabin said. “If you ever wanted to find out anything you just had to call up Susan.”
Blaco, known as “Susie” by her close friends and family, had been an instrumental leader and organizer for many purely things purely Hermosan during her 46 years living in the city. Her efforts were recognized in 2004 when she was honored with the Hermosa Beach Woman of the Year award, an honor that is bestowed upon residents who have been an active force in the community.
“The thing with Susie was that she just gave and gave and gave and didn’t need people to recognize it,” said Mary Beall, a longtime friend. “She was very humble and a very bright and creative woman.”
She was born Susan Helmers on Jan. 28, 1944 in Bartlesville, Okla., and moved to Hermosa Beach in 1968, just two years after graduating from Oklahoma State with a journalism degree. Along with a friend, she packed up her car and made the journey to the coast because she “just didn’t want to live in the cold anymore.”
She allegedly met her husband Steve in 1972 at the Poop Deck after she was accidentally drenched during a beer throwing game.
“I can still remember the evening I met Susan,” Dunbabin wrote in a letter to her family. “It was in 1986 – 87 and the Hermosa Beach Little League season was beginning. Susan, Vicki Garcia and I went to the board meeting to offer our help for the upcoming season. We had never met each other. After working with Susan during the next three months, we were friends forever even though her Oklahoma State football team always beat my Texas Tech team.”
Notoriously photo shy Susan Blaco and her husband Steve were spotted at this year’s Hermosa Beach Man and Woman of the Year ceremony. Photo by Chelsea Schreiber
Throughout her time in Hermosa Beach, Blaco served as Little League president and volunteered tirelessly for the Hermosa Beach schools. She was also a member of the evening division of the Woman’s Club of Hermosa Beach and served on the Civil Service Commission beginning in 2001. She was also active in the Hermosa Beach Sister Cities Association and visited Loreto, Mexico many times with her husband. Susan was also one of the original volunteers for the Beach Cities Toy Drive and was best known in her later years as a staple in the information booth at every Fiesta Hermosa. Beall said that she loved volunteering in the booth because she got to say hi to friends all day long and that she was involved in so many programs because she wanted to make sure stuff was done right.
“Susan has always been Hermosa and will always be Hermosa,” friends Steve and Anita Layton wrote in a letter to the family.
“She was one of our earliest supporters on our very first committee,” St. Patrick’s Day Parade co-founder Travers Devine said. “She was an absolute Hermosan first and was always willing to work and put in her time and effort. And she had this spirit that anything can be done. When we proposed something that seemed off the wall and not very likely, she just rolled up her sleeves and joined us and off we went.”
“She was truly involved in everything Hermosa Beach,” friend Barbara Clark said, adding that she never ran for office but always helped run campaigns. “She touched almost everybody’s life in Hermosa Beach somehow and some place.”
Her first years in Hermosa Beach began with a bang on 18th Street and Hermosa Ave. Her walk street home hosted many neighborhood parties and impromptu get-togethers that often revolved around her famous pork chops and sauerkraut.
“She had an amazing sense of humor, a sort of dry wit,” friend Vicki Garcia said.
“Susie would say it once and if you didn’t get it that was it,” Beall added.
Her son Brady said that his mother was always gung-ho for anything you threw at her and always put her family first.
“It was a tradition every Martin Luther King Jr. Day to go somewhere fun,” Brady said, adding that they drove everywhere from Tijuana to Venice Beach for the weekend adventure.
“She was a wonderful woman and a loving partner,” Steve said. “She was always just happy, happy, happy!”
“We loved her very much,” her son Andy said.
In Nov. 1995, she submitted her own satirical obituary to the Easy Reader.
Along with her civic activities, Blaco also loved to garden and sew and her love of life was always evident through her colorful craft projects, Brady said. For many years she would bring an arrangement of flowers to the Mermaid for their piano bar every Friday and was allegedly one of the only people the notoriously cranky bar owner “Boots” Thelen liked. She also worked in the Aerospace Industry and was a Manager of Marketing.
“She came from Oklahoma but Hermosa Beach became her true home,” said Beall. “She’ll be missed because she was such a great friend to so many people. She really was Hermosa.”
She is survived by her sister Joyce Mason and her husband Guy. Her sister Pat Lowry, her sons Andy and Brady as well as her husband Steve and extended family across the country.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Hermosa Beach Woman’s Club – Evening Division. P.O. Box 43, or the Hermosa Beach Rotary Club, P.O. Box 204, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.
The family is planning a celebration of life on the Hermosa Beach pier in late March, but the date is still to be determined. ER