Susan Marie Harnisch, a registered nurse and mother of a Darien resident, died after short illness Wednesday, March 28, at her Wenham, Mass., home, surrounded by her family. She was 81.

Mrs. Harnisch was born in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 5, 1930, the daughter of the late James McLaughlin and Marguerite DeCoursey.

She was raised in Bristol, Vt., and South Hadley, Mass., with her three sisters, Mary M. Rys of Falmouth, Mass., Elizabeth Todt of Sumter, S.C., and the late Patricia Robitaille of Truro, Nova Scotia. She received her registered nursing degree from Mercy Hospital in Springfield in 1951 and received her master's in education from Antioch College in 1983.

Mrs. Harnisch worked as an RN for over 25 years and then worked in various capacities starting in 1980 for the Department of Mental Health retiring as the head of case management for the Beverly site.

"Sue was loved for her generosity of spirit, compassion, and her unique ability to make everyone she encountered feel like they were special," her family said.

Mrs. Harnisch served on the board of the Wenham WISSH Committee and volunteered at the Acord Food Pantry in Hamilton. "She loved her home, quilting, and took great joy in nature, often enjoying gardening, bird-watching and walks with her family through the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary feeding the chickadees," her family said.

Mrs. Harnisch is survived by her three children, Kristen S. Nicol of Spencer, Mass., Susan Taylor Harnisch of Gloucester, Mass., and David M. Harnisch of Darien; her eight grandchildren, Joshua Nicol, Caleb Nicol, Zachary Nicol, Taylor Nicol, Sabine Harnisch, Ellen Harnisch, Ryan Harnisch and Julia Susan Harnisch; her two sisters, Mary Rys and Betty Todt; and many nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass celebrating her life will be held at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Hamilton, Mass., on Saturday, March 31, at 9. Burial will follow at the Wenham Cemetery and then a reception at the Hamilton-Wenham Community House.

Memorial donations may be made to Acord Food Pantry, 69 Willow St., Hamilton, MA 01982, or Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, 87 Perkins Row, Topsfield, MA 01983.

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