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Susan Sullivan Saiter

Thu, 01/12/2023 - 10:24

Sept. 12, 1946 - Dec. 21, 2022

“The extremes of society — the very poor and the very rich — fascinated” Susan Sullivan Saiter, an author, freelance journalist, and educator whose work had appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, The East Hampton Star, Talk magazine, Dan’s Papers, The Southampton Press, and other publications, her family said.

“Exposing injustice was her greatest mission in becoming a journalist,” but “the power of education was another interest,” they said. “She saw inequalities before they became common topics. Her first articles for The New York Times revealed undocumented kids’ experiences and bias against single parents in schools.”

Ms. Saiter had gone undercover into a migrant worker camp with a Latino rights group and “led reporter teams to probe housing discrimination and nursing home abuse.” While the subjects she tackled were serious, “humor and even satire often shaped her writing,” whether it was journalism or fiction, her family wrote, recalling, for example, a story she had written about “a suburban town with marching lawnmowers.” Her beats ranged from public housing to education to the courts, travel, lifestyles, and even animals, and her topics ranged from the Hamptons social scene to equestrian sports, mafia trials, pampered-pet parlors, and celebrity profiles.

Ms. Saiter, who was 76, died of pneumonia on Dec. 27 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The author of two published novels, “Cheerleaders Can’t Afford to Be Nice” and “Moira’s Way,” she was working on a novel about the South Fork — “The Hamptons Game” — which had been excerpted in The Star in 2015, and on a memoir.

Ms. Saiter began her career in 1975. She was the managing editor of The Evanston Review in Illinois from 1978 to 1981, a stringer for The New York Times from 1981 to 1984, and a reporter for The Sun-Times from 1984 to 1985.

From 1992 to 2016 she was an adjunct professor at Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she taught English literature, freshman composition, and journalism. She also worked part time as a creative writing instructor at the Writer’s Voice of New York, the New York Open Center, Gilda’s Club, and the cancer center at New York University Hospital.

Ms. Sullivan was born in Alma, Mich., on Sept. 12, 1946, to Andrew Jackson Sullivan and the former Donna Beardsley. She grew up in Michigan, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania. At the  University of Michigan she earned a bachelor’s degree in French language and literature, and she had a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University.

“She loved France, especially Paris,” her family wrote.

In 1986 she married N.R. (Sonny) Kleinfield, a freelance journalist and author who was a reporter for The New York Times for 40 years. They lived in Manhattan, with a summer house in Water Mill. He survives her.

She attended St. James Episcopal Church in Manhattan, where she was a member of the parish life committee, among many other volunteer activities. On the South Fork, she attended St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Bridgehampton. A dog walker at animal shelters here, she organized a 2004 benefit polo match for the Southampton Animal Shelter.

Ms. Sullivan enjoyed reading, dogs, horseback riding, jogging on the beach, planting flowers, and cooking.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by two daughters, Samantha Kleinfield and Laura Saiter, both of New York City, and by her siblings, Pat Sullivan of Kalamazoo, Mich., and Mary Grochan of Glen Rock, N.J., and a sister-in-law, Dawn Kleinfield of New Providence, N.J.

A memorial service will be held at St. James Episcopal Church on Madison Avenue on Feb. 1 at 2 p.m., with a reception to follow.

Her family has suggested contributions to the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, 102 Old Riverhead Road West, Hampton Bays 11946, or to the Secretariat Center, 4155 Walt Robertson Road, Lexington, Ky. 40511.


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