Worldmaking… Susan Berta Style

January 02, 2018
Denise Hyde and Laura Beck

Photo: Monroe County Post

“The late 1990’s were an especially exciting time for people with a passion for changing aging. We remember two lights that burned especially brightly at that time.  Joe and Susan Berta didn’t just teach Eden, they lived it. They used their wonderful skills, their passion for the work and a pretty darn romantic love of life to show people how, ‘It can be different.’  We miss them both. We will continue to hold them in our hearts. We will keep making gardens that grow people.  They would expect no less of us all.”

~Bill and Jude Thomas. Co-Founders, The Eden Alternative

As change agents, we know that the power of any movement is only as strong as those who champion it.  The early days of The Eden Alternative were blessed by the determination and commitment of a handful of passionate individuals.  One was a smiling, incredibly bright-eyed woman named Susan Berta.  As one of the first Regional Coordinators for The Eden Alternative, Susan taught many of us what it means to be an empowering leader.  These are only a few of the many gifts she shared with us all….

Susan was unwavering in her commitment to Elder empowerment. As a beloved educator, she always had new and creative ways to open people’s hearts. Organizations implementing The Eden Alternative continually wanted her back. Her students were so inspired, that she was constantly in high demand as an educator within her region. Susan also made herself available as a mentor to her students long after they experienced training with her.

Deeply dedicated to building caring communities, Susan remained closely connected to the organizations she supported, advocating enthusiastically for the role of empowered teams. Many of the organizations she introduced to the Eden Registry are still Registry Members to this day. As a nurse, Susan also had a deep understanding of what it meant to embrace genuine human caring over treatment alone, building an important bridge for those clinicians that struggle with making the leap to person-directed practices.  She also helped The Eden Alternative develop on a fundamental level by helping to lay the groundwork for many foundational learning materials that continue to enlighten and educate others today.

On December 24, 2017, Susan passed away after a long journey with cancer; yet, her legacy and contribution to the advancement of person-directed care lives on.  Thank you, Susan, for your bright, indelible spirit.

If you have a memory of Susan, please share it with us.

8 Comments. Leave new

Meredith Martin
January 2, 2018 4:12 pm

I met Susan in 2006 at Bill and Jude Thomas’ home in Summer Hill, New York. She was delightful. I remember her infectious laugh and how she inspired all of us newly trained Eden Educators to become World-Makers. She will be missed by her Eden Alternative family.

Laura Beck, The Eden Alternative
January 2, 2018 4:18 pm

Susan was my first CEAT teacher back in 2003. I will miss her laughing eyes and brilliant smile and spirit!

Cheryl George
January 2, 2018 4:24 pm

Susan was one of our amazing mentors as we joined the Eden Alternative journey. Suellen and I first met Susan and Joe in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She graciously shared her teaching so that we could begin to share with others. The excitement she brought to her teaching was so infectious. Susan will live on in the hearts of those who had the great privilege of learning from her on this journey.


Susan was indeed an inspiring person with a passion to change the world of elder care. I consider myself to be blessed to have known and learned from her. She was a truly good human being.


Susan was the first person I ever heard speak about Eden, in 1997. She put me in touch with Bill and Jude, and was our Mentor when I moved to St. John’s in 2000, training the first several CEA classes and helping our leadership team come together behind Eden. I learned so much from Susan and still quote her all the time. We’ll miss you, Susan–thanks for being an early candle that has grown into an international bonfire!


Susan was such a wonderful ambassador for The Eden Alternative. She was so passionate about culture change and spent many, many days and logged many miles traveling throughout the northeast spreading the word. She was a blessing to everyone she touched and will be missed.


Participating in a three-day Certified Eden Alternative Training in 2003 with Susan Berta as facilitator changed the course of my professional life and my personal life forever. Her passion for humanity and doing what is right for so many will never be forgotten. Susan was a world-maker. I remain her faithful protégé–her light still shines. Thank you Susan! XO

Cindy Braham Godfrey
February 6, 2018 4:51 pm

My sister Kim and I met Susan in 2001 when she brought the Eden Alternative to life during our 3 day training. Because of the passion, inspiration, kindness and joy that Susan brought to that training we chose a path for our nursing home that changed the lives of thousands. Susan and Joe visited our home and were considered dear friends. I will always remember her as a bright and shining star. She will be missed by many. Rest in Peace, Susan.


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