Suzanne Lavenas, 69, In Fatal Accident

Dec. 17, 1942 - July 4, 2012
Suzanne Lavenas Dec. 17, 1942 - July 4, 2012

    Suzanne Lavenas, an editor and year-round Montauk resident, died in a car accident in that hamlet on July 4. She was 69.
    Ms. Lavenas moved to Montauk in 1988 with her husband, Wesley First, a retired newspaper editor, who died in 2000. She came to New York in 1966, where she became production editor of Travel Weekly, a job she held for 20 years that took her to many countries in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Later, she formed a business partnership with Carolyn Carson of Montauk, with whom she worked on many editorial projects. In 2010, she acted as area supervisor for the Census Bureau.
    “Suzy was bighearted and was always there to listen. . . . She would do anything for anybody,” Debbie Tuma of Sag Harbor, a longtime friend, said.
    “The thing about Suzy is that she helped out a lot of people,” said her sister, Tilly Lavenas of Lyme Regis, England, who is the only member of the immediate family who survives.
    “She was a soft touch. She even bought a house and let someone live there for years rent-free. She was always lending her car out, and friends would stay with her for months on end. We joked that half of Montauk had a key to her apartment.”
    Ms. Lavenas, who lived at the Montauk Manor, was a devoted member of Alcoholics Anonymous. “It quite simply saved her life,” her sister said. She was also devoted to cats.
    Gerry O’Brien, a Montauk friend, recalled a chaotic scene a few years ago when she walked into Ms. Lavenas’s apartment. “Suzy and the vet were trying to catch Suzy’s cats to trim their nails. There was overturned furniture, upside-down tables, cats flying through the air. But this didn’t bother Suzy as her cats were her priority,” Ms. O’Brien said.
    Suzanne Lavenas was born in Buenos Aires on Dec. 17, 1942, the daughter of Carlos Fernando Lavenas and the former Mary Sharp. Her father was an Argentine businessman and the family shuttled back and forth between North and South America for two decades. When she was 12, her mother became concerned about her children’s welfare shortly before Argentine President Juan Peron was overthrown. She persuaded her husband to move the family to the United States, where they lived in Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Jersey.
    Ms. Lavenas graduated from the Casady School in Oklahoma City in 1959 and studied history at Antioch College in Ohio. When her father was transferred to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1965, Ms. Lavenas went too and taught at the American School. She was fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
    Daphne Prior, a New York friend, knew Ms. Lavenas for more than 40 years. “With her go so many shared memories . . . of the time we demonstrated against the Vietnam War at the Pentagon and of the Columbia student demonstrations just blocks from where we used to live.”
    “She was really a modern woman,” Ms. Prior said, “ahead of her time, highly intelligent, astute, and well-read. . . .  There will never be anyone like her, with her eager smile, her warmth, her willingness to reach out and save someone, or some animal in need, her commitment to those she loved.”
    A memorial service will be held tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at the Montauk Community Church.
    The family has suggested donations to the Montauk Public Library, P.O. Box 700, Montauk 11954, or the Animal Rescue Fund, 90 Daniel’s Hole Road, Wainscott 11975. An account of the accident that claimed Ms. Lavenas’s life appears with the police news in this issue.