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Memorial Ceremonies

I wanted to give everyone some more information on the memorial services for our Mom, Dr. Suzanne M. Bianchi, Suzanne, Sue.  

As I wrote in the previous entry, we are having two memorial services: a small one in Fort Dodge on November 16, 2013 (see website for more information) and a main one in DC tentatively set for December 7, 2013 for anyone who cared about our mom and our family.  

If you think you may attend the memorial in DC on December 7, please let our family friend Robin Barnes ( know.   We are almost positive that we will keep the December 7th date, but we are still in the process of confirming the final venue.  I will post time and location information as soon as it is finalized.

For tributes to our mom, our family is asking that donations be made to Ladies’ Turn, the women’s soccer NGO I helped start in Senegal.  The donations can be made through the Global Giving website:  Under the large orange donate icon, there is an option to donate a “gift in honor of”.   With my mom’s death, Ladies’ Turn has lost its biggest fan, supporter, and fundraiser.  I am including more background on the choice of Ladies’ Turn at the end (optional reading).

I will leave everyone with a couple phrases of Wolof, which I find to be such an amazing, expressive language.

In Senegal, when my loved one dies, you always say the following to offer your condolences as you see me bent over in grief:

You say:  Siggil ndigaale. //  Let me help you up.

I reply:    Siggil sa waal.   //  Here, take a piece of this pain.

Thank you so very much for all of your support.


Jen, James, Josh, and Mark

More Background on the Choice of Ladies’ Turn:

My mom started me on my adventure with soccer when she signed me up for a team at the age of 5.  I played all throughout my youth as did practically all of my girlfriends.  I have come to realize that signing me up for soccer was both an act of love and a feminist act.  It was a way to give her daughter an opportunity that had not been available to her because she was a woman.  

My mother finished high school before Title IX was passed.  As with most female members of America’s class of 1970, she did not have opportunities to play sports. Worse, my mom probably did not think anything of this. But my mother could have been an athlete, and in fact she was, later.  In her twenties and thirties, she ran, including running the Marine Corps Marathon twice.  She continued to run when she was pregnant with me.

Her daughter was absolutely going to have the experience of playing on a team, and benefit from all of the opportunities sports can create- for self growth, for friendship, for learning.  I owe my mom (and my dad) for my experience playing soccer.  My parents drove me to games in Montgomery County every weekend before DC had its own girls’ league.  

But my mom could not have anticipated where kicking a ball would eventually lead me.  Soccer helped me learn French.  I played on the Université de Toulouse II- Le Mirail soccer team when I studied abroad. Soccer practice is where I made my French friends and spoke French.  Later and fluent in French, I moved to Dakar to work with UNDP.  But soccer through Ladies’ Turn was how I really integrated into Senegal, lived one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and made the most improbable, beautiful friendships.  

Before I moved to Dakar, my mother edited my grant application for seed money I used to help start Ladies’ Turn, an organization dedicated to giving girls the opportunity to play soccer and promoting gender equality.  Neither she nor I realized it would lead to a three year adventure in Senegal and more.  Like all good adventures, it is not always smooth sailing, but my mom was always a phone call, supporting me.  

Thanks mom. Yes, Mom, I did find a way to sneak in another journal entry.

My wonderful, brilliant friend, Hélène Harder, made a documentary film about Ladies’ Turn.  The three minute trailer is here: 

Mom, I know you were proud to watch the film on our TV at home this fall.  I’m really glad you saw it, that you had another window into my life in Senegal that I so treasured.  But mom, you were supposed to see the film many more times, especially at a proper screening in an auditorium. 

We’ll be thinking of you.