Susan was born in the mountains of North Carolina. Her youth was spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains as part of Celo Community and attending the local schools from South Toe Elementary to East Yancey High. In 1971, she graduated from New College, in Sarasota, FL with a degree in Psychology & Child Development. A gap year after graduation was spent exploring N.W. Africa, from Morocco, thru Mali, Upper Volta and Algeria.
After a sabbatical in London, as an Early Childhood teacher, she joined Nigel Helps, and they purchased a 36′ sloop and crossed the Atlantic in 1975. This was the beginning of maritime connections.
The next ten years were spent on the East Coast and Caribbean working with early childhood development programs and boats. In 1980, she switched to applied computer electronics and spent the next twenty years in corporate America’s IT departments. She moved to Chula Vista in 1990, married Don Johnson, and joined the community of sailors in the Chula Vista Marina. She became a member of San Diego Tall Ship Society, Chula Vista Yacht Club, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron.
The San Diego Tall Ship Society was instrumental in organizing Chula Vista Harbor Days from 1990 until 2003 when the Californian was sold. In 1910, Harbor Days was revived by the city of Chula Vista and the Chula Vista Yacht Club. Susan was involved with organizing 2010 & 2011 Harbor Days and with the addition of the tall ship BILL OF RIGHTS, she retired in 2013 to support the schooner BILL OF RIGHTS, the formation of South Bayfront Sailing Association and the South Bayfront Artists and Hobie Youth Sailing Education Foundation. She joined the board of South Bay Historical Society in 2020 and is presently the organization’s secretary.