Each year, Erie County recognizes a resident over the age of 60 whose community involvement makes a difference to others and presents them with the Erie County Senior of the Year Award. WBFO’s Avery Schneider met this year’s recipient, East Aurora resident Susan Brazill.
“These are my friends,” said Susan Brazill. “This is Nina. This is Beverly, and this is Kaye.”
Brazill was thrilled to introduce three of the women she spends time with each week at Aurora Adult Day Services. On a sunny afternoon, she and the ladies were gathered around a kitchen island with Frank Sinatra’s playing in the background. They chatted about where they’re from and what their interests are before the conversation turned to the relationship they have with Brazill. Louisiana transplant Beverly Ann Daigle got right to the point.
“She’s special. Very special,” said Daigle.
Brazill serves as co-president of the board of Aurora Adult Day Services, which provides a safe, structured environment for adults who can’t be independent. They come for activity and companionship, which Brazill is happy to provide as a volunteer.
“I visit a lot,” said Brazill. “I’m a chatty Cathy. So I visit a lot, and on days when, possibly they have a lot of people and they’re busy, I might sit with a small group and do some things. But for the most part I’m a driver. I like the driving part. I have my little group of people that I pick up in the morning and take home at night.”
But talking with Aurora’s Executive Director Susan Clapp, its clear Brazill is modest about the lengths she goes to.
“Sue will take our clients to get haircuts. She’ll buy new shoes for them if they’re needed. She’ll get them a winter coat if somebody needs a coat,” said Clapp. “There’s nothing she won’t do for our clients.”
Clapp described Brazill as a woman who gets out of bed each morning thinking about everyone in the world but herself. And that penchant for serving others is why she’s being recognized as this year’s Erie County Senior of the Year.
Over the last two decades, Brazill has volunteered with at least ten other organizations – the majority of them serving people living with disabilities. It’s a population Brazill began working with early in life, thanks to her father.
“He was a physical therapist, and he would take me to School 84 with him, and I would help with reading groups or things like that,” Brazill recalled. “I was young, but I would sit down with the other students and read to them or read with them, and I absolutely enjoyed it.”
Brazill went on to study special education at Buffalo State College and worked summers at Cradle Beach Camp. After school she began teaching students with special needs, and continued to do so for 44 years.
Her daughter Jennifer recalled from growing up that her mom was immersed not only in the lives of her children and her family, but in those of her students and the athletes she coached in field hockey and Special Olympics.
“The lives that’s she’s been involved in and immersed in is just endless,” said Jennifer Brazill. “You can’t go anywhere around the Western New York region that my mom doesn’t know somebody that’s just in love with her. And that’s a fact.”
Between teaching, coaching, and a laundry list of volunteer positions, Brazill said she doesn’t know how many lives she’s touched. In a moment pressed outside her modesty, she estimated and said, “I guess there were a lot.”
At age 70, the work doesn’t stop for Brazill, and where she sees the continuing impact of her life is in others who follow her example. Most are by choice, and others do so through a little cheerful encouragement. Friends and family both say there’s no one who can say no to helping when Brazill asks.
Her daughter thinks it’s a result of her mother’s contagious spirit and energy. It’s probably also because of what Brazill sees as the big message in what she does.
“It’s important to get out there in the community and see where you fit and where your talent might be best used, and not be afraid to share it,” said Brazill.
For those who do share their talents and meet new people, they might just find the same feeling that Brazill does.
“Every single time I’m with them, it’s a reward. I just absolutely enjoy what these organizations stand for and what they do,” said Brazill. “And so, yes, helping them is very rewarding, but being with them is the most important part.”
Follow WBFO's Avery Schneider on Twitter @SAvery131.