Susan Wilson

After experiencing deafness and ASL for the first time through an 11-year-old boy that played with my sons, I realized that I was deeply interested in learning sign language and being involved with the local Deaf community. I searched for and attended as many local Deaf events as possible just to hang out with Deaf people. Fortunately for me, they were very accepting and patient with such a novice. 


From that point on, I had a series of mentors, both socially and academically, who encouraged me, but the one that meant the most was my dearest friend Susan Wilson. Struck with spinal meningitis as an infant, she grew up hard-of-hearing and attended only oral schools until the age of 15, when she was finally exposed to ASL and the world of deafness. Still accustomed to "speaking," her classmates soon gave her the name sign of "Chatterbox." She completely lost her hearing at the age of 44, which was when I met her.

Because of her experiences and outgoing personality, she was my perfect "bridge" between the Deaf and hearing worlds. For 25 years, she was patient and open to teaching me and taking me to Deaf events that increased my ever-growing hunger to learn and know more.


Because of who she was (cancer took her from us 3 years ago) and what I have become because of her (and other supporters of my growth within the Deaf community), I have been interpreting for more than 25 years and still loving every minute of it. My newest adventure is performance interpreting for a local theatre that wanted to make live entertainment accessible to the Deaf community. 


I hope other aspiring ASL and interpreting students will find a mentor as wonderful as my dear friend Susan Wilson.

Sue Downs

Bremerton, WA


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