When I was a girl, my family often drove down Widow Susan Road to get to the main highway along the Mohawk River, Route 5, the route that took us to the big stores in Schenectady and Albany. Invariably, one of us- my sister, my father or mother, and sometimes me - would ask: Who was Widow Susan? None of us knew the answer to that question.
In my late teens, my boyfriend and I drove down Widow Susan to a deserted cemetery for a romantic moment in his car. We gave no thought to the road's namesake. If we had known her story, we might have chosen another spot to cuddle in.
Her full name was Susan Thomas, and she lived with husband Harmanus DeGraff on a farm at the bottom of the road that today still bears her name. When he died, leaving her with several young children, Harmanus was buried in a family plot near the road. Susan was only twenty-seven.
Susan eventually moved to Michigan with one of her daughters, but when she died at the age of seventy-one, she was buried back in her hometown of Amsterdam, New York in Green Hill Cemetery, a few miles from the original farm. By that time, the family cemetery was in ruins.
Witnesses report seeing a woman in a white old-fashioned dress who appears to be crying as she walks along Widow Susan Road. She looks like she is searching for something. Or someone?
There are four cemeteries on Widow Susan Road. It has been suggested that the widow of Harmanus is extremely confused to find herself in Green Hill Cemetery, and not beside her husband's grave. She wanders at night in search of his body. The mystery remains: why can't someone give Susan directions to the spot?
Causes Linda Wisniewski Supports
Women for Women International, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Story Circle Network, International Women's Writing Guild