Susan K. Phillips, 80, of Burlington, died Friday, November 11, 2022, at the Klein Center in West Burlington.
Born May 22, 1942, in Marshalltown, Iowa she was the daughter of Cecil Emerson and Bertha (Hauder) Biklen Orr. She attended Burlington, Iowa Schools graduating from Burlington High School in 1960 and then went to the University of Iowa where she received her nursing certification and her business Bachelor's Degree. She was married to John David Killian in 1962 and they had their first son Marc David Killian in August of 1963.
The family then moved to Ann Arbor Michigan where she worked at Ypsilanti State Hospital as a psychiatric nurse. Susan and David had their second son Peter James in June of 1967. Susan and David separated amicable in 1971 and continue to coparent their two boys. She continued to work as a psychiatric nurse and supervisor until 1976 when she moved to Ojai California for a fresh start and to provide better education for Marc and Peter.
In California she began a career as a counselor and hypnotherapist helping people lose weight, stop smoking, and overcome traumatic past experiences. During this time, she was very dedicated to raising her two sons and helping people overcome their difficulties through her counseling. She worked as a therapist until 1988 when she moved back to Burlington briefly to help her aging parents relocate to an assisted living facility in Milwaukee Wisconsin where she continued to reside along with her sister Janet and her husband David Dahl.
Two years prior to moving to help her parents her oldest son Marc was killed in an automobile accident on October 16, 1986. She was of tremendous comfort to her youngest son, ex-husband David, and all of Marc’s many close friends during this time. She chose to view this tragic death as the unfolding of God’s plan and was an inspiration to her son, his father, and even to the driver who was at fault. She demonstrated absolute love, trust in God, and dedication for the well-being of her family during this time. She allowed the family to heal and make sense of this tremendous loss.
In Milwaukee she and one of her close friends opened a care facility for disabled elders and oversaw the care and management of this facility. They were almost immediately at full capacity and had a long waiting list given the outstanding care that was provided to the patients. She stepped away from the day-to-day management of this facility after 8 years and moved on to begin a new business in home rentals in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, this venture was not as successful given her kind and generous nature. She did not have the capacity to be a tough landlord when it required displacing people from their homes when they could not pay rent. She realized this and had the insight to step away from this business.
Over all these years she kept in touch and talked regularly to her clients from her old counseling practice because she genuinely cared for them. She did this free of charge and out of love and dedication to these people that she felt responsible for.
In 2016 she found a wonderful partner and kindred spirit in Bill Ell of Burlington Iowa. In 2017 Susan moved back to Burlington, Iowa where she spent her final years with her partner, Bill. In 2021 she went to the Klein Center in West Burlington, where she resided until her passing.
Susan attended Zion United Church of Christ. She enjoyed nature, gardening, flowers and reading. Susan would frequently like to collect leaves in the fall and also enjoyed collecting small realistic looking rabbits. She worked hard all her life to do what was right. Susan was always willing to look at the adversities in her life as openings for her own personal growth.
Survivors include her son, Peter (Jennifer) Killian of Eagle, ID; three grandchildren Roan, Cade and Niall; and her partner, Bill Ell of Burlington.
She was preceded in death by her son Marc, parents, brother, Jim Orr, and sister, Janet Dahl and her husband, David.
Cremation has been entrusted to the care of Prugh Crematory.
The celebration of life for Susan will be 10:00 AM Saturday, May 20, 2023, at Zion United Church of Christ with Reverend Carolyn Blair officiating. A reception will follow the service at Zion United Church of Christ.
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