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“Formidable” is how one nephew described her. And Susan Rhomberg Daugherty
(nee’ Pfohl) truly was. Born on July 28, 1935 in Dubuque, Iowa, Susan passed away
peacefully in her longtime home in Madison, Wisconsin on September 26, 2023.
Surrounded by the love and warmth of family, Susan's childhood growing up in
Dubuque with her father (a leading physician in town), her mother, her older brother
and two sisters was nearly idyllic. She graduated high school from the Visitation
Academy and, from there, sampled several colleges, attending St. Mary's of Notre
Dame and Clark before graduating from the University of Iowa. Susan was a gifted
artist and, showing a young feminist streak, complained to her college instructors
that all the nude models in her figure drawing classes were women.
She then joined her sister in Milwaukee, where she taught at a public elementary
school on West Oklahoma Avenue. In Milwaukee, Susan met Don Daugherty, a
Marquette medical student from Yorktown Heights, New York. They fell in love and
soon were engaged. After a wedding and a reception at the Dubuque Country Club
on July 11, 1959, they moved to Albany, Georgia, where Don served out his Air Force
service commitment and Susan taught at a Catholic elementary school.
After the Air Force, they lived in the Gramercy Park area of Manhattan so that Don
could begin his residency at Bellevue Hospital. It was there that first son, Donald
Jr., was born. It was also there that Susan fell in love with the museums, art
galleries, theater, and other cultural attractions that New York City offered.
After New York, Susan persuaded Don that Madison, Wisconsin was equidistant
between her hometown and his, so they settled down there and he began his long
career as an internist with the Dean Clinic. Soon followed sons Stephen and
Benjamin and a move to the Hill Farms neighborhood, where she lived the rest of her
life. When fourth son Paul was born, the family needed additional space; not wanting
to disrupt their sons’ neighborhood friendships, Susan and Don found a bigger house
only a block away.
With her siblings, Susan revived the tradition started by their parents of summer
vacations in Door County, where the extended family would commandeer a Lake-side
resort for a week. That tradition will continue, with fond memories of Susan being
An early practitioner of parental school choice, Susan performed considerable due
diligence and decided that after her sons were educated at a wonderful Catholic
elementary and middle school, they would attend an equally wonderful public high
school, Madison West. At the same time, she made certain that none of them lost
their religious faith.
As they reached adolescence, Susan could be sorely tested by her boys, but they
always knew that she loved them deeply. She relentlessly encouraged them to realize
their full, God-given potential, and never let them shortchange themselves. She was
fiercely protective, even when her sons sometimes wished she hadn’t been.
After her sons went off to college, Susan threw herself into other pursuits. She picked
back up on her love of art, taking drawing and painting classes and continuing to
produce lovely pieces well into her later years.
Susan was particularly proud of her role as a docent at Madison's Chazen Art
Museum. She worked tirelessly to master information about all of the exhibits there,
and no visitor to the Chazen ever received a more thorough or informative tour than
the one they got from her.
A lifelong learner, Susan took graduate classes in real estate at the University of
Wisconsin, and became good friends with the renowned Prof. James Graaskamp.
Susan also enjoyed playing the stock market, managing her own portfolio and
participating in several investment clubs. Relatedly, she loved hitting the slots at
Ho-Chunk with a glass of white wine in hand.
During her adult life, Susan also made real efforts at learning golf, tennis, skiing,
and other sports, with varying degrees of success.
Susan was generous, loving, intellectually curious, independent-minded, romantic,
perceptive, and had a clever (occasionally wicked) wit. She was sensitive and caring,
and could be moved to tears learning of misfortunes faced by people she hardly knew.
She loved all human life, and worked to protect the lives of the unborn.
A lifelong Catholic, she nonetheless would wrestle with aspects of the Church that
troubled her. Because her faith was deep, however, she knew that God would not be
troubled by questions from a loving, searching soul.
Susan was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Anthony C. Pfohl; her older
sister and her husband, Mary and Lou Remily; her brother-in-law George Daugherty
and his wife, Lee; and her daughter-in-law, Cynthia Daugherty. She is survived by
her husband of sixty four years, Don; her sons Donald Jr. (Raye), Stephen (Cynthia),
Benjamin, and Paul; her older brother Richard (Margaret) and younger sister Ellen
(Les) Digman; her grandchildren, Kate, Eleanor, Emma and George Daugherty; and
numerous nieces and nephews.
Susan’s family would like to express their deep appreciation for the warm, wonderful
care provided to Susan in her last months by Agrace Hospice – especially Delicia,
Molly and Michelle. The family is also especially indebted to Susan’s son Paul, whose
constant presence at his Mom’s side gave her great comfort during her last months.
There will be a Funeral Mass at Our Lady of Queen of Peace in Madison on
Wednesday, November 22 at 11 am. A light lunch served at the Church will follow.
A Visitation will precede the Mass, starting at 10 am.
The Funeral Mass will be livestreamed at this link: