Susan MacMillan McCarley
May 1, 1922 – March 19, 2021
Susan Willard MacMillan McCarley (aka Mrs. McCarley, Sue, Susie Q, Tootsie, Mama, Mom, Grandmother, Grandma, Gaga and the Greatest Gaga) was born in Passaic, New Jersey on May 1, 1922 – the eldest child of Charles Wright MacMillan, M.D. and Elizabeth Taylor Chester MacMillan. After 98 - almost 99 - years of independence and nurturing family and friends, Sue took her last breath at home on March 19, 2021 while listening to her caregiver’s gospel singing.
Sue was beautiful, brilliant, resilient, and fun-loving. She grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, attending Montclair High School where she graduated first in class among girls. Following that she entered Wellesley College for Women where she thought she might major in music until she was informed she would have to “write a symphony.” She was Wellesley’s first war bride, marrying naval Ensign Theodore Trimmier McCarley Jr. of Nashville, Tennessee in May 1942 in Montclair at Union Congregational Church.
She met Trimmier in Montreat, NC where she spent three months every summer through her childhood and teenage years. He was a Lake Susan life guard, and she was a self-described “lake bunny in a rubber bathing suit.” Her grandmother, Susan Weir Willard Chester required Trimmier to recite an entire chapter of the Bible before he was allowed to court her. After they married, Sue intended to continue her education at Wellesley while Trimmier shipped out, but was met at her dorm by the Dean and informed that they did not allow married women at Wellesley. So…. she decided to enroll in secretarial school at Katherine Gibbs in New York City where she studied from 1943-44. With a secretary’s certification under her belt and her stenographer’s pad in hand, she was able to find work wherever she lived.
She began her career at the Rockerfeller Center typing for the Duke Foundation and later she worked for the Navy Chaplain headquartered there. She followed Trimmier to Norfolk, VA and San Diego, CA as his naval assignments as an oil tanker navigator moved from the Atlantic to Pacific Theaters. In the course recent story-telling, she informed her family that her major contribution to the World War II effort, aside from supporting Trimmier, was Top Secret: She typed the Manhattan Project while at the Rockerfeller Center locked in a vault. When Trimmier was discharged from the navy, they lived in New York City until Trimmier graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1948.
Upon Trimmier’s graduation from law school, the couple moved to Nashville. Initially she worked for the Ogilvie Pencil Company. Then she was employed by Vanderbilt University as executive secretary to Chancellor Harvie Branscomb and the Vice-Chancellor. Trimmier was ill in the VA Hospital for most of 1948.
In 1950 Sue left Vanderbilt. She and Trimmier moved to a duplex in Brookside Court on Kendall Dr. Their first child Elizabeth Chester McCarley was born in 1951. In 1953 they moved to 207 Page Rd. and welcomed their second child Theodore Trimmier McCarley III. Susan Willard McCarley followed in 1956. While raising her family she kept her secretarial skills polished by working part-time as the first registrar at Cheekwood Fine Arts Center and Botanical Gardens and later at the National Academy for Recording Arts and Sciences. The family moved to their home on Belle Meade Blvd. in 1965 where she lived until she passed away. Sue was a “cupcake” kind of mother. She volunteered at Walter O. Parmer School for all of the activities of her children ranging from cooking gallons of famous Parmer School Spaghetti Sauce, to typing the student directory, to serving as a room mother, to driving countless “hook-ups.” In addition she was a lifelong member of the Colonial Dames of America, headquartered at Travellers Rest; a founding member of the Nashville Symphony Guild; and a board member of the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers. She loved her bridge club, her garden club, her church circle, playing piano for Westminster’s Murdoch McLeod Men’s Bible Class, and playing tennis. She was a master seamstress often sewing matching Easter outfits for herself and her two daughters. She maintained her gardens at home well into her eighties. She was a member of the Centennial Club, The Belle Meade Country Club, and the Willard Family Society.
Trimmier suffered through a lengthy illness and died in 1975. She re-enrolled in college and completed the Asssociate Degree in Secretarial Sciences with an emphasis on Medicine at Nashville Technical Institute. She utilized this skill by volunteering at St. Thomas Hospital as a medical transcriptionist.
Later she established a cottage industry as a typist in her home. Her office included an IBM Selectric typewriter, a plethora of files, an airy view of Percy Warner Park, and all of the supplies you might expect to find in an executive assistant’s work space. Before the days of word-processing, she typed college applications, transcripts, books, dissertations, and grant applications for her many friends of all ages, as well as endless letters regarding the business affairs of her father, her mother, and Trimmier. Sue was always busy and never lonely.
Sue loved nothing more than a good celebration; she enjoyed entertaining; and she had a terrific sense of humor. She made sure holiday dinners and birthdays were special. She thrived on cooking adventures. She was known for serving dishes ranging from calf’s tongue to caviar just so her children could taste these delicacies. She picked watercress from country creeks to make watercress sandwiches. Her favorites were open-faced tomato or cucumber sandwiches on white-bread, cookie-cutter circles, and pimento cheese. Grilled peanut butter and jelly or grilled cream cheese sandwiches were also staples at her table. Once she gleefully served her children green eggs and ham. For Ted’s eighth birthday, she “gave” him a bow-decked bull dozer that was parked in their driveway. Per grandson Casey, she “played a mean accordian.”
Sue is survived by her younger sister, Elsie Parsons MacMillan Connell (Naples,FL); three children, Beth O’Shea (Ross), their two children, Casey O’Shea (Wendy Adams) and Carley Fowler (Dan); Ted McCarley (Deb) his two children Tee McCarley (Lynley) and Ellie Keiper (Zak); and Susan Spaulding (Bruce), and their two children, J.B. Spaulding (Abby) and Sarah Anne Spaulding; the joys of her declining years, her nine great-grandchildren; and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews. She was predeceased by her parents, her younger brother Charles Wright MacMillan, MD (Nashville) and her husband.
When asked recently when her happiest times were, she thought a minute and said, “I think right now.”
The family deeply appreciates the many years of care she received from her physician Dr. Edwin Anderson and her team of caregivers from Blakeford at Home. A memorial service for family members and invited guests will be held at 1:00 PM at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, March 24. She will be laid to rest by her husband Trimmier at Mt. Olivet Cemetery at 3:00 PM.
Contributions in Susan's memory may be made to Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3900 West End Ave., Nashville, Tennessee 37205.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.mountolivet.com for the McCarley family.
Westminster Presbyterian Church
3900 West End Ave., Nashville, Tennessee 37205
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Susan MacMillan McCarley
Mary Catherine Bradshaw
March 24, 2021
Without Mrs. M’s “cottage industry” typing, I would not have survived. She impeccably typed a library full of work...and shared her joy as she did it. Thank you.
Jack (John Chester) Connell
March 23, 2021
Aunt Sue was, to use one of her favorite words, "Marvelous!!" (which must be said with an energetic Southern drawl). She was Mom's idol in a big sister way - a steady stream of large family gatherings at her home, frequent letters filled with exciting news, and deep roots in her Nashville community. Our summer trips from NY to Montreat to join Aunt Sue and one or more of her kids were clear highlights for both of them and it was amazing how often they'd show up with similar outfits. Aunt Sue had an amazing depth of knowledge of family history and could recount the smallest detail. From childhood, I would eagerly open the random packet of photos, old annotated letters and whatever else she thought might be of interest to me at the time. Her deep love of family defined her life, and lives on.
March 20, 2021
I remember her as constantly smiling and laughing! She was an entertainer at heart. And I remember the holidays at her house, the smell of sweet food and family and history in that house in belle meade. Easter and all the little kids in white dresses and fancy shorts. The nutcracker and bowl of nuts, I remember her refrigerator door and the happy family photos! Her piano and the pathetic macmillan singing! I remember so much joy, oh and a springer spaniel I adored! ??? She was the center of the nashville MacMillans!!!!