Indiana News

Susan Bayh, wife of former US Sen. and Gov. Evan Bayh, dies after fight with cancer

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The wife of former U.S. Sen. and Indiana Gov. Evan Bayh has died after a long fight with brain cancer and its complications, he announced on his Facebook page on Saturday afternoon. Susan Bayh was 61.

“Susan was an incredible person who led a life full of love, courage, and accomplishment,” said his message in the Facebook post.

She died Friday night in McLean, Virginia, in suburban Washington, D.C., the family said.

Her husband, a Democrat, was governor from January 1989 through January 1997, after he’d served four years as Indiana’s secretary of state. She was the 46th “First Lady of Indiana” and was the youngest in 150 years to assume the role at age 29.

She was Miss Southern California 1978; that’s the same year she was a princess in the Rose Bowl Parade.

Susan earned her law degree from the University of Southern California Law School in 1984 and later worked for law firms in Los Angeles and Indiana, handled federal regulatory issues for Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., served on several corporate boards, and taught at and became a trustee of Butler University.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Susan to the International Joint Commission. She served six years addressing issues between Canada and the United States.

The Bayhs have lived in Washington since Evan began serving as one of Indiana’s U.S. senators in January 1999. He was a senator through January 2011.

Susan’s battle with cancer was first revealed in May 2018 when she began undergoing multiple surgeries after the discovery of a malignant glioblastoma. Her first brain surgery had happened in 2015 to remove a benign tumor. She began chemotherapy and radiation therapy following the 2018 surgery. “Throughout her 2-year, eight-month battle against cancer, she never once complained or expressed self-pity. Despite a multitude of hardships, she continued to display her exuberance, happiness, and love for others. Her fortitude was truly unbelievable and an example for us all,” the Facebook post said.

She is survived by her husband; their twin sons, Nick and Beau; her parents, Bob and Carol Breshears; her siblings, Bob Jr., Ann and Linda; and numerous nieces and nephews. The twins were born in 1995 while Evan was governor.

The family on Saturday also shared a video memorial with family photos on YouTube.

A memorial service will be held when health conditions allow. In lieu of flowers, the Bayh family requests that contributions be made to the Bayh Family Scholarship through the Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs School at Indiana University.

Bayh family statement

“It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Susan Breshears Bayh after a long and courageous fight against glioblastoma and its complications. Susan was an incredible person who led a life full of love, courage, and accomplishment.

“Susan excelled academically and professionally. She earned a degree in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and a law degree from the University of Southern California. She practiced law at two of our nation’s most distinguished law firms, at Eli Lilly (Indiana’s largest employer), and served on the board of directors for several companies in biotechnology, telecommunications, and healthcare.

“She served on the Board of Trustees at Butler University and taught as a visiting professor for several years in the fields of business, environmental affairs, and law. She also served on the Dean’s Council at Indiana University’s Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. In addition, she worked as Adjusted Professor for her law school alma mater, USC, placing law students in public service internships and providing mentorship.

“In 1994, Susan was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the International Joint Commission and served for six years overseeing issues arising between the United States and Canada.  

“Susan was the 46th First Lady of Indiana and the youngest in 150 years, assuming the role when only 29 years old.  She worked tirelessly to support her husband’s initiatives and established a 401(c)3 charitable organization to combat adult illiteracy in the Hoosier state.  She made countless speeches, gave numerous interviews, and attended innumerable public events as an active First Lady.  Governor Bayh would often say that ‘Hoosiers voted for Susan’s husband.’

“She was beautiful.  She was selected Miss Southern California in 1978, was a princess in the Rose Bowl Parade that year, and was a cheerleader at Cal her senior year in college.

“Susan was a model of courage and resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity.  Throughout her 2-year, eight-month battle against cancer, she never once complained or expressed self-pity.  Despite a multitude of hardships, she continued to display her exuberance, happiness, and love for others.  Her fortitude was truly unbelievable and an example for us all.

“But above all, Susan was a loving spouse, mother, child, sibling, and friend.  She and her husband, Evan, were happily married for more than 35 years.  They were blessed with twin sons, Beau and Nick, and the couple became the first Governor and First Lady to have children while in office in the last century.  Their sons are both officers in the United States military, have undergraduate degrees from Harvard University, and are currently completing degrees at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School respectively.  There has never been a more devoted and loving mother or spouse than Susan Bayh.

“Susan’s passing leaves the world a darker place, but Heaven has gained a shining star and the firmament will be the brighter for her presence there.  We will love and miss her always.  

“Susan is survived by her husband, Evan, her sons, Nick and Beau, her parents, Bob and Carol Breshears, and her siblings, Bob Jr., Ann, and Linda, and numerous nieces and nephews.”

Statements

For more than a half-century, and across three generations, the Bayh family has given itself to this state and our country. A talented lawyer, Susan exemplified this spirit of service as First Lady, opening the doors of the Governor’s Residence and inviting the people of Indiana to share in her and Evan’s joy as they became parents to Beau and Nick. In recent years, Susan continued to inspire as she battled cancer with characteristic fearlessness – even as her sons enlisted in the military and swore oaths to support and defend the Constitution on our behalf.

As with so many today, I am saddened by the loss of my friend but heartened at the legacy of leadership Susan has left to her family and a grateful Hoosier State. Steph and I offer our heartfelt condolences to Evan, Beau, Nick, and the entire Bayh family.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett

“Janet and I were saddened to learn about the passing of former First Lady Susan Bayh. She was an extraordinary and radiant public servant, wife, mother and friend, who leaves a remarkable impact on our state and nation. I ask all Hoosiers to join us in praying and being there for the Bayh family.”

Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb

“My heart breaks for the Bayh family. Susan was an accomplished attorney who loved serving our state as First Lady. But she found even more joy in raising her twin boys. I appreciate the kindness the family has shown me over the years, & I’m praying for them in their time of grief”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, on Twitter

““Indiana Democrats are absolutely heartbroken to hear about the passing of one of our most cherished Hoosiers. Susan Bayh dedicated her life to her state and to her family – and alongside her husband worked at solving some of the state’s toughest problems while improving the lives of all Hoosiers across Indiana. Susan was a leading voice for so many women, and her passion for her husband, her sons, and the future of Indiana are just some of the ways we will remember her. I will never forget attending a large event as an elementary school student in the 1980s and hearing from our First Lady, Mrs. Bayh. Countless others surely have similar stories, and we are all better for her leadership and her life.

“As we mourn her, we will be holding Senator Bayh, Beau and Nick close in our thoughts, prayers and condolences as members of our Indiana Democratic family.”

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party

“Susan Bayh joined Emmis’ Board of Directors when the company went public in 1994. She was a genuine person who offered a unique perspective that helped chart the company’s course for 27 years. Susan was not only a trusted advisor; she could light up a room, and her passion for life was infectious. We will miss her deeply, and strive to honor her memory in our thoughts and work by always doing the right thing for our employees, community and stakeholders.”

Kate Healey Snedeker, for Emmis Communications Corp.

“Susan was an amazing friend to Indiana University and the O’Neall School, serving as a member of our Dean’s Council for many years, and inspiring countless students along the way. We’ll miss her kind and generous spirit. Our thoughts are with Evan, Beau, and Nick during this difficult time.”

Sian Mooney, dean, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs

“The Indiana University community is deeply saddened by the passing of former Indiana first lady Susan Bayh. As an attorney, businesswoman and educator, Susan was a great ambassador for Indiana and a champion for Hoosiers all across our state.”

Michael A. McRobbie, president, Indiana University

“I’m reminded today of the time when I was getting to know Susan as our husbands teamed up in 1988. I recall her eagerness and vigor as she was starting her law career, her family and in her role as Indiana’s First Lady. She was magnetic and her energy came through in all she did. Her grace as she faced this battle with cancer these last few years was an inspiration. Our O’Bannon family heart aches today, as Hoosiers have lost one of our champions and a friend, and our thoughts and prayers are with Evan, Nick and Beau at this difficult time.”

Former Indiana First Lady Judy O’Bannon Willsey

I am saddened to learn of the passing of former Indiana First Lady Susan Bayh. She was always a bright face to see at the Statehouse and throughout our state. She led Hoosiers by example and always wanted what was best for Indiana. My heart goes out to the Bayh family and I encourage Hoosiers everywhere to keep the family in their thoughts and prayers.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Republican

Karen and I were truly saddened to learn of the passing of our friend, former Indiana First Lady Susan Bayh. We send our deepest sympathies and prayers to her devoted husband, Evan, their sons Beau and Nick, and their entire family during this difficult time. Susan Bayh lived a truly extraordinary life, and she will be remembered for her great service to Indiana and our Nation. In public service, in her professional life and philanthropy, Susan Bayh made a difference in the lives of generations of Hoosiers, and she will be deeply missed. In the face of serious illness, her tenacious spirit and optimism inspired us all. Susan Bayh loved her family, our state and her friends with a smile and irrepressible optimism that will never be forgotten. Karen and I will be praying for Evan, their sons, family and all who loved and cherished this truly remarkable Hoosier. God bless Susan Bayh.

Former Vice President Mike Pence

Kathy and I send our deepest sympathies to the Bayh family on the loss of former First Lady Susan Bayh. A great loss to the family and to all Hoosiers. Please pray for the family in their time of grieving.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican

I send my deepest condolences to the Bayh Family on the loss of First Lady Susan Bayh. May the memories of her full life and many achievements sustain and comfort you in this difficult time.

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, Democrat from Indianapolis

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