Daughter remembers Susan Jacobsen, jokester and friend
Susan Jacobsen died while kayaking on Lake Granby on July 13. Although her husband, Pete Jacobsen, preferred larger boats, Susan loved paddling the kayak she bought some 15 years ago.
Susan’s daughter, Jordan Kuzma, described her mother — who had a history of volunteering as a cook on a dolphin research boat — as someone who loved to be on the water.
“Her car always had pads on the roof racks so she could get the kayak up there,” Jordan said. “She would kayak down here at local lakes and take it up to Winter Park or Granby or wherever.”
Jordan’s husband Gregory startled her when he walked into her office July 13. He had worked with Ascend Performing Arts, the nonprofit Jordan works for, in the past, but seeing him then indicated to her that something was wrong. Jordan’s sister-in-law lives in Winter Park and had contacted Gregory with news of Susan’s death and told him to let Jordan know.
“He drove out to my office and told me what happened,” Jordan said. “It was incredibly hard to hear. I just remember I just kept saying, ‘No, I don’t believe you.”
A strong mother-daughter relationship
After leaving work and driving to Granby, Jordan met some of her family at the Middle Park Medical Center. She said the coroners had not taken her mother’s body, allowing Jordan to say her last goodbye.
Susan and Jordan shared a close relationship highlighted by their similar sense of humor. Jordan said her mom went with her on a road trip to Moab, where Jordan ran her first half-marathon. The pair would find themselves laughing so hard they could not breathe.
“(We would) delight in calling my dad and not being able to talk to him because we were laughing so hard,” Jordan said. “He loved it, but then he’d just hang up on us, and he couldn’t understand what we were saying because we’re gasping for air.”
The trip to Moab inspired many others, like journeys to Victoria, British Columbia, for a marathon Jordan raced three years ago. Susan was excited just to see Jordan cross the finish line, she said.
The pair also went on canoe trips together — another opportunity to indulge in their inside jokes. On one canoe trip, a guide told Jordan her mother had an old soul. The comment confused Jordan, but she said she thought of what it might have meant.
“It seemed like mom had done everything and knew so much,” Jordan said. “She cared so deeply. When she met you, she would remember your name, she would remember your pet’s name, she would ask you about them. If she met you, you were hers, and she would, she just cared.”
Jordan described a number of way’s Susan’s caring nature came out in normal interactions. She said going to the store with her mom annoyed her as a child because Susan would stop to talk to so many people, asking about what they had going on and how they were doing. Susan also made sure to be there for her grandchildren, visiting them often and going to events like music recitals.
Susan and Jordan communicated through Facebook and text messages, and Jordan said she will miss the sense she had of her mom always being there because of those communications. She said they would try to get songs stuck in each other’s heads by texting a few lyrics in all caps.
With Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” stuck in her head one day, Jordan texted her mother, “MAMA,” to make her think of the song.
“She writes back, she’s like, ‘What’s up?’” Jordan said. “And I sent her, in all caps because it was a song lyric, ‘I JUST KILLED A MAN,’ and my phone rings two seconds later. She says, ‘Oh my God baby, what did you do, and what do you need from me?’”
Susan Jacobsen, black belt
Around the same time Susan took up kayaking, she started taking karate lessons. The 60-year-old novice worked her way up to a fourth degree black belt and ran her own karate school, Jordan said.
“She had four or five students and had just done her first black belt test that she was administering to other people,” Jordan said. “That happened in mid-June.”
Karate, kayaking and other physical hobbies made for an active lifestyle, which a back surgery a few years ago limited for a while, Jordan said. Teaching karate forms, though, offered Susan a way to participate without doing anything too strenuous.
Susan also got a paleontology certificate after retiring from her career as a phlebotomist. She used the certificate to volunteer weekly at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s bone lab, where she helped process fossils.
Part of the community
Although Susan lived in Arvada, she and Pete had vacationed in Grand Lake for over 20 years. Their son Dodd, who died in 2020, worked for the Fraser-Winter Park Police Department and the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. His ex-wife lives in Winter Park. All of their connections to Grand County drew the Jacobsens to visit often and make an impact on the people living here.
“They would come up all the time to watch their granddaughter at school plays and things like soccer,” Jordan said. “They were very, very tied into the Grand County community. Lots of people up there loved them.”
Jordan said her mother and her caring nature made an impact on anyone she met.
“She took everyone that she knew into her heart and cared about them deeply,” Jordan said. “If you’ve met her once or twice, you would remember because that was kind of person she was.”
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