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Obituary: Susan Sheppard

Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 4:07 PM EDT
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Susan Sheppard, noted poet, author, artist and creator of the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, died at her home on Monday, April 19, 2021, after a brief but courageous battle with cancer.

She was born July 1, 1955, in Clarksburg, WV, a daughter of the late George Warren Friend and Gwendolyn Noreen (Chapman) Friend.

She grew up in West Union, WV, before moving to Parkersburg in 1974.

A graduate of Doddridge County High School, Susan also attended WVU-Parkersburg, the University of Charleston, the University of Pittsburgh, and Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC.

(More details about Susan’s life and work may be found in the upcoming April 24/25 edition of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.)

Over the years, she also studied with Gwendolyn Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet; noted local portrait artist Dorothy Decker; and many other poets and writers.

Susan entered and won many awards over the years from West Virginia Writers, an organization she helped to create.

Susan wrote the book and designed the original cards for use with her past-life divinatory tool, called “The Phoenix Cards,” that was published in 1990. The book and cards have been translated into several different languages and have sold more than 65,000 copies worldwide.

While living in Pittsburgh in the late 1980s, Susan was active in the local poetry scene there. That’s where she befriended fellow writer Yun Wang, who recently gathered some of Susan’s poetry into a collection that will be published later this year, called “Glamoury.”

Shortly after moving back to West Virginia from Pittsburgh in 1990, Susan was hired by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh to do astrological forecasts, which were presented on the station’s morning show. She was also the astrologer for “Seventeen” magazine for more than a year.

For nearly 20 years, she appeared on WTAP’s “Daybreak” show, doing monthly astrology forecasts.

In the 1990s, Susan started researching and presenting talks about hauntings and the history of downtown Parkersburg and the surrounding areas. Eventually, these talks evolved into the “Haunted Parkersburg Walking Tours,” which she and her helpers presented on weekends during the Halloween season for the past 25 years.

Susan’s Tours became some of the most popular in the US, according to several websites that rank them. She also appeared on many nationally-broadcast TV shows about the hauntings in the Mid-Ohio Valley on the Travel Channel, Syfy Channel and others.

The “creation” of which she was proudest, was her daughter, Scarlet, who was born in 1991.  Scarlet carries on Susan’s creativity and passion and has been a part of the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours since she was very small.  Susan’s oil painting of Scarlet, standing on the steps at the New Orleans home of author Anne Rice, is a warm display of Susan’s love for her daughter.

Susan battled many crippling auto-immune symptoms which went mostly undiagnosed and untreated despite her efforts to find their root cause. It is remarkable that she accomplished as much as she did with so little energy, but sad that her health kept her from accomplishing even more of her dreams.

She is survived by her daughter, Scarlet Sheppard, of Arcadia, CA; brother James (Janet) and their son Tyler, of West Union; sister Carla (David) Marks, their son Ryan, and Ryan’s son, Ethan, all of South Point, OH; brother Christopher of Parkersburg; uncle W.P. Chapman, Jr., of Cairo, WV; aunt Sandra (Don) Sandy of Parkersburg and many other cousins.

She is also survived by her close friend, Brady Young; her life long best friend, Regina (Ball) Metzger of Georgia, who was with her when she passed; and her former husband, Roger Sheppard (Anna), of Davisville.

In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by other relatives in the West Union and Cairo areas

Susan’s family would like to thank fellow poet and friend, Sherrell Wigal, for her help in the last few months, along with Lynn Feick Stone, Becky Sheehy and her daughter Jenny, and Susan’s recent caregivers Shantel Gainer, Kim Wilson, Arlene Woodfin and the folks at Amedisys Home Health.

To honor Susan and celebrate her life, the public is invited to a New Orleans-style memorial walk beginning at 3 p.m. this Sunday, April 25. Wear your spooky Sunday best (with comfortable shoes!) Social distancing and protective masks are encouraged.

Rain or shine, the walk will start at Bicentennial Park near the Blennerhassett Hotel and proceed up Market Street to 9th Street. It will then turn west for one block and then go north on Juliana Street. The walk will end at the gates of Riverview Cemetery. There, folks will be invited to share memories and leave mementos (flowers, notes, etc) behind.

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