Suzanne Powell Gainer, 73, of Morgantown, died of an acute illness on Saturday afternoon, August 26, 2017, in the J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.
She was born October 27, 1943, in Clarksburg, West Virginia, to the late Deward G. Powell and Ruth Lawson Powell.
Suzanne was an amazing daughter, sister and aunt; devoted wife and mother; dedicated and doting grandmother; funny and loving friend; and an energetic community servant. She was known by many as a knitter, quilter, dog lover and animal rescuer.
After graduating from Weir High School, she attended West Virginia University, where she earned a degree in medical technology just in time to marry the love of her life, Brooks Gainer, on June 6, 1965.
Suzanne was a medical technologist (MT-ASCP) in hematology at WVU University Hospital. She later founded Brierwood Research, a clinical research business.
She spent much of her life as a community volunteer in Monongalia County. In the 1970s, she was active in Junior Women's Club and served as a Girl Scout troop leader. In the 1980s Suzanne was the perpetual Suncrest Junior High School Band treasurer. She oversaw the yarn section of the WVU Hospital Gift Shop and taught knitting lessons. She also taught dog obedience classes and helped form a dog search and rescue team.
She has served as a deacon and a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church. She taught Sunday school and was moderator of Presbyterian Women. She coordinated many local, national and international mission projects, and fostered the idea of the Presbyterian parking lot sale and Christmas cookie bazaar. She also served several terms on the Presbyterian Child Development Center board. In the 1990s, she became one of the first Stephen Ministers in Morgantown.
Also in the 1990s, Suzanne helped establish the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. She worked tirelessly, using her craft skills, to make items for sale and developed unique fundraising ideas such as the Carpenter's Club. During her tenure as president of Habitat, the first part-time executive director was hired, followed by a full-time director.
In 2002, she turned her attention back to animals, becoming active in Animal Friends of North Central West Virginia (AFNCWV). She served as a board member and treasurer, fostered animals, and transported animals out of state for adoption. In 2003, she founded and managed Lucky's Attic Shoppe in the Mountaineer Mall, creating an ongoing fundraiser for AFNCWV so The Sanctuary, the no-kill shelter, could be completed.
Suzanne was very upset by the plight of the national champion WVU rifle team in 2005. She was not a gun person but felt the team was important to the university and the state. She contacted a local delegate and asked the delegate to be a strong advocate for legislative funding to bring the team back. She hoped that she played a small role in that happening.
In 2008, Suzanne shifted her interest to changing the pet overpopulation in Monongalia County. She was a founding member of the Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program (M-SNAP) as well as a board member and first treasurer. She helped formulate the program’s comprehensive voucher and education program that is actively serving animals in the county. She helped negotiate the program’s uniform fee schedule with partner veterinarians, allowing M-SNAP to provide no-cost spay and neuter services for cats and dogs. She helped open ReTails by M-SNAP, a thrift store and an ongoing fundraiser in the Morgantown Mall; she was the manager for seven years.
While Suzanne preferred to be active behind the scenes, willing to let her work be seen without taking credit, she was recognized multiple times by The Dominion Post as an outstanding citizen, and in 2007 received the Governor’s Service Award.
Most importantly, she never let her work come before her family life. She loved attending WVU football and basketball games with her husband, family, and friends, providing them with the best mini-pepperoni rolls around and busily knitting during games.
Suzanne loved to read and learn, continuing to take classes that interested her. She also loved naps, musicals, a good laugh, and hugs. She enjoyed her various knitting and quilting groups over the years, as well as her annual quilting/shopping trips with dear friends.
Suzanne was frequently called to help when stray dogs and cats were found in the area. She took in many of these and “adopted” numerous friends and neighbors into the family as well. She was always willing and ready to help where needed, whether it was bringing puppies into the world, helping to care for loved ones, or being a supportive shoulder on which to lean.
Although she had been in poor health over the last year, Suzanne remained committed to her family, friends and community. Through it all, she was a fighter who worked hard and strengthened her mind and body so she could to be better for her loved ones.
Suzanne is survived by her husband, Dr. Brooks Gainer; her daughters and their husbands, Kristin (Conrad) Hamrick and Shelby Gainer (Jamie Weber); and her biggest joys, her grandchildren: Hunter Hamrick, Abigail Weber, Harrison Hamrick, Avery Weber, Kelcey Hamrick and Henley Weber. She also is survived by her brother, Hayward “Bud” Powell, wonderful nieces and nephews, and an extended community too large to name.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her sister, Diane Findley; and her in-laws, Robert Brooks and Geraldine Haggerty Gainer.
Arrangements are being handled by Hastings Funeral Home, where friends may call from 5–8 p.m. Friday, September 29. A memorial service to celebrate Suzanne’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, September 30, at First Presbyterian Church, 456 Spruce St., Morgantown, WV 26505. A reception will follow at the Chestnut Hotel, 345 Chestnut St., Morgantown, WV 26505.
In lieu of flowers, her family suggests a tribute donation in her name to any of these organizations with which she worked: The Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program Inc., P.O. Box 4335, Morgantown, WV 26504 (http://www.m-snap.org/); Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary Inc., P.O. Box 648, Capon Bridge, WV 26711 (http://www.almostheaven-golden-retriever-rescue.org/), or St. Ursula Food Pantry & Outreach, P.O. Box 18, Pursglove, WV 26546 (http://www.stmarystarcity.com/StUrsula.html).
In her memory, family members ask that you pet a cat or dog; visit with family and friends; work on a craft project; read a book; learn something new; and hug your loved ones as often as you can!